Iraqi government forces repel multiple ISIS attacks
London- Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters said they had repelled attacks from Islamic State (ISIS) forces in several areas in northern Iraq as the militants slowly lose control of their stronghold in Mosul.
The first attack, June 10 in Shirqat, south of Mosul, led to the death of 24 ISIS militants and 14 members of the Iraqi armed forces, Sunni tribal fighters as well as civilians, Iraqi security sources told Reuters.
Peshmerga forces said they repelled an ISIS attack on the night of June 13 in Tuz Khurmatu, 75km south of Kirkuk. Two peshmerga fighters were killed during that attack, peshmerga commander Abdullah Bor told the media outlet Rudaw. Bor said ISIS militants had also targeted the Iraqi Army and militiamen from the predominately Shia Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in the area.
Earlier that day, the PMF announced retaking all areas west of Mosul from ISIS except the town of Tal Afar, 50km west of Mosul, near the Syrian border.
On June 14, Iraqi forces repelled an attack by more than 100 militants, many of whom wore suicide vests, in Danadan district south of the Old City of Mosul.
“Terrorists came from the Old City and attacked our forces using mortars and sniper shots. They managed to temporarily seize some buildings but we forced them to retreat after shelling their positions,” an unnamed Iraqi federal police officer told Reuters.
ISIS claimed in a statement that it killed 40 federal police officers but security officials told the Associated Press (AP) that 11 federal police officers and four civilians had been killed.
The latest ISIS attack was one day after Iraqi forces announced the capture of Zanjili district, north of the Old City, where some 200,000 civilians remain.
Many civilians have been killed in the crossfire during fighting for control of Mosul. Although ISIS members are known to fire at people trying to escape, civilians have also been killed because Iraqi and allied forces have been relying on the use of heavy weapons, human rights groups warned.
The US military said it increased the number of investigators looking into reports of civilian casualties in anti-ISIS coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the use of artillery-delivered white phosphorous by the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria was endangering civilians.
“No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” said Stephen Goose, arms director at HRW. “US-led forces should take all feasible precautions to minimise civilian harm when using white phosphorus in Iraq and Syria.”
HRW said: “White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure. Already-dressed wounds can reignite when dressings are removed and they are re-exposed to oxygen.”
Adding to the long list of miseries those fleeing Mosul are facing, more than 750 displaced residents suffered food poisoning — with hundreds hospitalised — following iftar at the Hassan Sham U2 camp, about 20km east of the city.
Amnesty International repeated its call for Iraqi authorities to find the whereabouts of at least 643 men and boys, reportedly abducted by PMF militias last year from Saqlawiya in Anbar province.
“The abductions happened during military operations to retake Falluja and surrounding areas from the control of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State. Their families have lived in agony ever since, uncertain whether their loved ones are safe or even still alive,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
A political battle is brewing between Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil.
Hoshiyar Zebari, senior adviser to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani, told Reuters that “there is no going back” on a decision to have a referendum in September on the secession of the region from the rest of Iraq.
The Iraqi central government, however, insists such a decision should involve all Iraqis and not just those in the Kurdish-majority region.
“All Iraqis must have a say in defining the future of their nation. No single party can determine the future of Iraq in isolation from the other. Any decision on this issue must be taken in consultation with other parties and safeguard national consensus,” Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told the AP.
Neighbouring Turkey, which normally enjoys good relations with Barzani, also criticised the KRG’s decision about the referendum.
“There are sufficient problem areas in our region and we don’t think it is right to create new problem areas,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.