Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga are facing off against jihadists in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. FRANCE 24’s special correspondents recently visited one of their outposts.
The Peshmerga, literally “those who face death”, are the soldiers of the Kurdish armed forces.
Last week, taking advantage of the vacuum left by the fleeing Iraqi army, they deployed in territories that are disputed by both their government and authorities in Baghdad.
One place that has been a point of particular contention is the oil-rich of city Kirkuk, where the Peshmerga have formed a line of defence against jihadists by erecting earth embankments next to the Zab River. The jihadists are not even two kilometres away, and plumes of smoke rise in the distance where Peshmerga artillery has struck.
On the other side of a nearby bridge, the Peshmerga have taken over an Iraqi army position. Beyond that point begins the territory of the jihadists and the Sunni tribesmen aligned with them.
“[The jihadists’] goal is to take Kirkuk, but our men are fighting to defend it,” Mohammad Latif, a Peshmerga lieutenant colonel told FRANCE 24. “To take the city, they will have to walk over our dead bodies.”
In Kirkuk, with its mixed population of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, the Peshmerga deployment is generally well received. As one resident, Abu Mohammad, told FRANCE 24: “People pray for the Peshmerga to stay here. If they were not here, our situation would be as bad as in the south.”
With 250,000 well-trained and motivated troops, the Peshmerga army is a solid buffer against the chaos of the rest of Iraq. For now, the jihadists are concentrating their forces against the Iraqi army; only seven Peshmerga have been killed in action since the beginning of ISIS’s offensive.
Date created : 2014-06-18