Dozens of villages at risk due to security gaps between Peshmerga, Iraqi forces

Villagers say they have to defend the villages as there are no security forces in their area

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Dozens of villages are at risk of Islamic State (ISIS) attacks due to their location in areas where there are security gaps between the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk province, villagers said.

“There are no security forces in tens of kilometers between Kirkuk and Prde sub-district,” Esta Media Network reporter who visited the area said.

Six Katyusha rockets fired towards the positions of the Peshmerga forces deployed to the sub-district, south of Erbil, on Tuesday night.

The attack caused no casualties.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi military and Peshmerga forces launched a joint operation against ISIS militants in east of Kirkuk.

Esta’s reporter has learned that several suspects were detained during the operation.

Among the villages located in the areas where there are security gaps between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces are Sarbir, Dubzni, Qadir Baghir, Bir Aspan and Karez, the reporter said.

Residents in Sarbir village say they have to defend their village as there are no security forces due to the security gaps.

“We gather as groups of two or three in the village to defend ourselves”, villager Dawd Ibrahim told Esta Media Network.

Villagers patrol on the roofs of the houses from the evening until the morning of the next day, Dawd said.

Jawad Salay, another villager, criticized the Iraqi forces, deployed to an area two kilometers from Sarbir village, for not responding to ISIS attacks on their village.

“The Iraqi military is only two kilometers from me and it doesn’t come out of its base. It only protects its surroundings,” the villager told Esta Media Network.

“If it is not attacked, it doesn’t care.”

Recently, ISIS remnants have increased attacks against the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the disputed territories claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil.

Three civilians and 22 members of the Peshmerga forces were killed in attacks in Garmian administration and Makhmour district, southwest of Erbil.

Kurdish officials have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil for ISIS’ continued ability to wage deadly attacks.

After the joint operation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, an Iraqi commander said the two forces would coordinate to protect the villages from ISIS attacks.

“There are now coordination and cooperation between us for all the villages, and we have no problems and conflict,” Iraqi military commander Mahmoud Khalaf told reporters.

The Iraqi and Peshmerga forces launched another joint operation against ISIS militants in Diyala province on Wednesday, following continued attacks against them.

The Ministry of Peshmerga said 14 ISIS hideouts were destroyed during the operation in Garmaser and Qaratapa areas in the province.

The two forces searched six villages and a valley in Qaratapa and six other villages Garmaser, the ministry added.

Islamic State controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017. Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops backed by U.S.-led Coalition forces as well as Iran-backed Shia militias defeated the militant group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

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