Peshmerga seeks to stop ethnic cleansing by ISIS

July 01, 2014 01:12 am | Updated November 16, 2021 06:58 pm IST - KIRKUK:

Kurdish Peshmerga man an artillery position innorthern Iraq. Photo: Special Arrangement

Kurdish Peshmerga man an artillery position innorthern Iraq. Photo: Special Arrangement

Villagers from nearby regions took shelter in Turcomen-dominated neighbourhood of Wasiti, in Kirkuk — an oil-rich town held by Peshmerga since the Iraqi army fled, and now claimed as part of the independent region Kurdistan’s political leadership hopes it will soon become.

Kirkuk’s Governor, heeding demands from Turcomen leaders, arranged for weapons to be distributed to the villagers, and a tribal militia — or sahwa — to be formed.

Fighting has broken out in several other areas, with Peshmerga seeking to stop ethnic cleansing by ISIS. ISIS attacks on Christians and Shia Shabak Kurds in the al-Hamdaniya district, near Mosul, has led to mortar and rocket exchanges.

ISIS has, for its part, hit back, staging the first suicide-bombing inside Kirkuk since the Peshmerga took charge on Wednesday.

Three people, one of them a child, were killed in the bombing, which targeted the Rahimawa market. Munir Kafili, the chairman of the Kirkuk City Council and a prominent Turkmen leader, was assassinated a day earlier.

The city’s cosmopolitan mosaic has survived centuries, but could be torn apart as all communities arm themselves, fearing the worst.

“Every day,” says General Fateh, “thousands are streaming across the border into the city, some fearing ISIS and others the Iraqi army and still others their neighbours.”

Fissures between communities could increase if Iraqi forces engage in revenge killings. Iraqi troops are battling around Tikrit— a city where 46 Indian nurses are holed up, with no viable evacuation route, having elected to remain at their stationsFollowing a loan of at least 11 combat jets with Russian pilot-instructors, Iraq’s government is also expected to step up air strikes on cities further north, like Mosul.

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