RUDAW -13.6.2014 – KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish Peshmerga leaders say that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has began shelling areas south of Kirkuk, where Peshmerga forces stepped in to fill in deserted Iraqi Army positions.In response the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Deputy Minister of Peshmerga, Anwar Haji Osman, urged Arab tribes in the region “not to let their territories be used by the ISIS for shelling other areas.”
As ISIS forces take cities and claim to be close to Baghdad – after the Iraqi army collapsed and fled before a threatened onslaught by the militants — Kurdish forces slowly moved in to take control of major roads, as well as Kurdish-majority villages and towns.
Peshmerga spokesperson Jabar Yawar said that Kurdish forces had “full control” of Kirkuk on Thursday morning. He added the Kurds could not risk the city’s majority-Kurdish populations – and oilfields that include one of Iraq’s largest – falling into militant hands.
“After their defeat by the Peshmerga, the ISIS are now shelling the liberated areas from a distance, using seized Iraqi weapons,” Osman told Rudaw. “
He sent his appeal to the Sunni tribes in the region from one of the Peshmerga frontlines south of Kirkuk.
The Kurds have also succeeded in taking over large areas of northern Diyala province, after small confrontations with ISIS fighters.
In the town of Jalawla, abandoned Iraqi army positions, checkpoints and bases were immediately claimed by the Peshmerga and Kurdistan security forces (Asayish).
The majority of the people in northern Diyala are Kurds trapped in disputed territories that are claimed by both the KRG and the Arab central government, and often caught in battles between insurgents and Iraqi troops.
Major Pishtiwan, head of Asayish in Jalawla, said his forces had faced a small confrontation with an Iraqi army SWAT team, as the Kurds tried to take checkpoints abandoned by Iraqi forces.
“An Iraqi SWAT team tried to stop us, which led to a shootout between us,” Pishtiwan said. “The fighting is over now. The SWAT teams have gone and the entire town is under full Peshmerga and Asayish control.”
Pishtiwan added that ISIS fighters were present only in the Arab villages of Diyala, and that they have stayed well away from the Kurdish-controlled areas.