Nurses trapped in Tikrit beg for help

In this June 30, 2014 photo, a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter, right, sits in the shadow on his position behind barriers built along the front line with militants from the ISIS in Mariam Bek village, Iraq.   | Photo Credit: Hussein Malla

Indian nurses trapped in the besieged city of Kirkuk have begged authorities to secure their escape, as Iraqi forces conducted helicopter strikes on positions just metres from their hospital. Islamist insurgents inside the complex, the nurses told Indian authorities in Baghdad, offered to move them by bus to a safer location in the city. The nurses declined the offer, and instead chose to move from their rooms on the first and fourth floor of the hospital into the basement.

“It is impossible for us to survive here much longer,” terrified Kerala resident Marina Jose told The Hindu. “There have been bombs exploding around us all night, and one of the nurses had a severe fit yesterday.”

The Indian Embassy in Baghdad has notified the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Iraqi government of the danger to the nurses, but neither organisation though an evacuation was immediately possible. The nurses had earlier declined offers of help, saying Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams insurgents had guaranteed their safety and promised to secure their back wages. Four more nurses had subsequently joined the group inside Tikrit.

Flailing offensive

Iraq’s Ramadan counter-offensive has made little progress. The Iraqi military has taken control of the highway running north through Tikrit, from Baghdad to Mosul, but have proved unable to retake the city, despite close support from armed helicopters. Efforts to retake villages further north using tribal militia have also collapsed, with an offensive on ISIS positions at the village of Bashir ending with the killing of at least 12 fighters and capture of several others.

“Frankly,” said General Sherko Fateh, commanding officer of the Kurdish Peshmerga’s 1 Brigade in Kirkuk, “the fault lies with Iraq’s generals. They have been busy making money, playing politics, doing everything except defending their nation.”

Lieutenant-General Mahdi al-Gharawi, sacked for the collapse of Iraq’s five brigade strength 2 Division in Mosul, has been accused of corruption and sectarian bias. Iraqi military officers are alleged to have paid bribes to secure commands, recovering their investment by misappropriating staff salaries and payments made for troop rations. General al-Gharawi also unleashed terror in Mosul after ISIS insurgents first staged strikes in 2013, alienating the local Sunni population.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is also accused of weakening the Army by appointing dimaj, or political commissars, into the command structure, while sacking competent Sunni generals he believed might stage a future coup.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 10:11:42 AM |

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