News / Middle East

    Kurdish Forces Suffer Major Losses Against Islamic State

    FILE - This photo shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.
    FILE - This photo shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.
    VOA News

    Sunni Islamic State militants pursued their advance in the north of Iraq Sunday, capturing strategic territory close to the Turkish and Syrian borders, including Iraq's biggest dam, an oil field and two more towns.

    Islamic State was able to inflict their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since sweeping through the region in June

    Local officials said militants with the extremist group Islamic State took control of the towns of Zumar and Sinjar near the city of Mosul on Sunday, waging fierce clashes with Kurdish forces.

    The area near the Sinjar Mountains is inhabited by the mostly Kurdish-speaking Yazidi minority, which is scorned by its Sunni neighbors.

    Ashirqiya TV reported that hundreds of Yazidi families fled to Daouk for fear of persecution by the Sunni militants.

    The French news agency AFP quoted a United Nations spokesman saying 200,000 people have fled Sinjar and said there are grave concerns for their safety.

    Capture dam, oil field

    Capture of the Mosul Dam after an offensive of barely 24 hours could give the Sunni militants the ability to flood major Iraqi cities, sharply raising the stakes in their bid to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government.

    "The terrorist gangs of the Islamic State have taken control of Mosul Dam after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces without a fight," said Iraqi state television.

    However, one Kurdish official disputed the claim that the Islamic State controls the dam.

    The militants have also been fighting in recent days to capture the town of Haditha, which is the site of another strategic dam, capable of flooding vast areas of the country.

    Both dams are key components of Iraq's electricity grid and their loss would cause major disruptions to the country's power supply.

    Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said the militants are slowly advancing in areas that are easily within their reach.

    "Their main concern right now is to consolidate their hold in the parts of Iraq that they already control and gain access to more oil fields," Khashan said.

    "Their recent advances during the past two days focused on taking over the tri-border area between Turkey, Iraq and Syria, and they took it. Today, they advanced south of it to Sinjar mountains," he added.

    Islamic State, which sees Iraq's majority Shi'ites as apostates who deserve to be killed, also seized the Ain Zalah oil field, adding to four others already under their control, and two towns.

    They faced strong Kurdish resistance only at the start of their latest offensive when taking the town of Zumar. The Islamists then hoisted their black flags there, a ritual that usually precedes mass executions of their captured opponents and the imposition of an ideology even al-Qaida finds excessive.

    The al-Qaida offshoot, which swept through northern Iraq in June almost unopposed by the U.S.-trained army, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

    After thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled the Islamic State offensive, Shi'ite militias and Kurdish fighters emerged as a key line of defense against the militants, who have threatened to march on Baghdad.

    Kurdish forces had poured in reinforcements, including special forces, to Zumar, where they battled Islamic State fighters who had arrived from three directions on pickup trucks mounted with weapons, residents said.

    Islamic State comments

    In a statement on its website, Islamic State said its fighters killed scores of Kurdish fighters in a 24-hour battle and then took over Zumar and 12 villages.

    "Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas," Islamic State said. "The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey."

    An official in the Northern Oil Company said Islamic State fighters had taken control of the Ain Zalah oil field and two other undeveloped fields - Batma and Sufaiya.

    The U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Kurds and the federal government "should urgently restore their security cooperation in dealing with the crisis."

    The peshmerga are widely perceived as Iraq's best organized and most efficient military force, but the autonomous Kurdish region has been cash-strapped and its troops stretched.

    Its regional government has not been receiving the 17 percent share of national oil revenues it is owed by Baghdad and is struggling to sell its own, smaller, production independently.

    According to a senior official, a Kurdish delegation is currently in the United States to demand military equipment.

    Such procurement theoretically requires the approval of the central government in Baghdad, where politicians are expected to renew efforts to form a government this week.

    Iraqi forces

    Meanwhile Sunday, military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said clashes continued between Iraqi security forces and militants to retake the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, which fell to Sunni insurgents last week.

    Moussawi said a number of airstrikes hit the militants in the center of the town, though he did not offer casualty figures. Dozens of militants and nine troops were killed Saturday in clashes in Jurf al-Sakhar, located some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital.&

    Islamic State's ambitions have alarmed other Arab states who fear their success could embolden militants in their countries.

    Eight Lebanese soldiers were killed in clashes with Islamist militants that began on Saturday in and around the town of Arsal near the Syrian border and continued overnight, the army said.

    Earlier Lebanese security officials said at least 11 militants and three civilians had been killed in the fighting there and that around 16 members of the security forces had been taken hostage.

    The militants included fighters from al-Qaida's Syrian branch and from Islamic State.

    Islamic State has stalled in its drive to reach Baghdad, halting just north of the town of Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital.

    The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name earlier this year and declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria. The group has already seized four oil fields, which help fund its operations.

    It has been trying to consolidate its gains, setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields, as well as border crossings with Syria so that it can move easily back and forth and transport supplies.

    The group has capitalized on sectarian tensions and disenchantment with Maliki.

    Critics describe Maliki as an authoritarian leader who has put allies from the Shi'ite majority in key military and government positions at the expense of Sunnis, driving a growing number of the minority to support the Islamic State and other insurgents. He is also at odds with the Kurds.

    Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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    by: Hassan KHAN from: Paris
    August 05, 2014 6:04 AM
    USA+Israel and sorry to say but it´s reality + Turkey , feeding these snakes. The day is not far they ´ll taste return. Terrorists from Pakistan with the help of pro SAUDI Nawaz GOVT. Breaking jails taking flights from CHAKLALA to ISTANBUL planned in 2006.

    by: Amed from: Iraq
    August 04, 2014 7:30 AM
    Mousel Dam is under control of Peshmarga so far. They don't let ISIS to occupy any places. Please, try to confirm the news prior publish it.

    by: FreeWorldPeace
    August 04, 2014 1:51 AM
    What I don’t understand is why the West, in particular the Obama administration are not helping the Kurds? The Iraqi army managed to flee in less than 3 hours of IS attacking them in Mosul, leaving behind billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weapons which were given to the Iraqi government by the US government. This is now in the hands of IS. The Kurds are pleading to the West, not for US/UK soldiers, a western army or even air power, but merely weapons to help them fend off these terrorist.
    Kurdistan region of Iraq has become a safe haven not only for the Iraqi Arabs but for all those seeking refuge from all different ethnic and religious background, in particular the Iraqi Christians. The UN and the Pope himself has explicitly recognized this. The media has remained silence over the massacre and genocide of the Iraqi Christians, with the Kurds being their only salvation.

    Time is running out. It’s time we help the good guys for a change, and provide the Kurds with necessary weapons to help defend the minorities and the only democratic, free and peacefull region from these savages.

    In Response

    by: huron from: europe
    August 04, 2014 9:55 PM
    Its incorrect to say the US has not helped, its lost 5000 troops in Iraq already and Obama made the point in November 2002 that id Bush Invaded Iraq, it would cause massive trouble between the Sunnys, Kurds and Shi-ites.Everyone ignored him, but he was right and spelled it out. The Kurds have done deals with Turkey against the rest of Iraq people, so if Turkey can take Iraq Kurdistan oil and is a member of Nato with an aiforce, then it can help the Kurds and Iraqi's . It wont because it allowed ISIL into Iraq through its borders due to its failed policy on Syria. It said Jabhat El Nursa part of ISIL was not terrorist up till June 6th days before Turkey let them through to Mosul.

    Nobody really cared about Iraqi's when ISIl invaded anbd the Kurds just took oil fields in Kirkuk , Iraqi's shi-ites got no help from anyone , only there own religous groups .

    Its time for the Kurds and Shi-ites. Turkmen to come together to defeat ISIL. The PKK are now bringing everything they can into Ninewa and Kurdistan from the mountains in Kurdistan and Turkey to help fight them, yet they have been treated badly by everyone , even the KDP Bazarni party. The PUK have called on Iran to help and have got Iranian troops into Kurdistan, Maliki has got Jests from Iran and Russia in the last two weeks and they are supporting the Kurds and all ethnic minoritys as well with air strikes against ISIL.

    Why do we sell arms to Saudi Arabia and they sit back and do nothing, but most commentators know they have funded ISIL Jahbat El Nursa front and want Iraq to fall back under the ba-athists of Saddam Hussein left over regime.

    The US as done enough and actually caused this in 2003 , now how can anyone expect Obama to send in troops or help when Congress and the Senate have stopped him, not that he would arm them , when it proved in Syria arming groups like Saudi Arabia did, as caused this and even the UK and France were for arming ISIL.

    What Obama and Nato countries can do is ask turkey for air support to help the Kurds and Iraqi's , but as sure as eggs are eggs , the Turks wont help, but will take Kurd Iraqi oil and they buy oil from ISIL.

    Suggest a few look back at history to Obama speach on what would happen in Iraq if Bush Cheney invaded and its come true

    by: Hunt from: Virginia USA
    August 03, 2014 11:24 PM
    The situation is spiraling out of control. Arab League needs to get its act together and put all its energy into fighting the Islamic State. they have no plan beyond killing and destroying everyone whom they think is apostate.

    by: Kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
    August 03, 2014 9:15 PM
    "They were pretty doggone good fighters. They weren't very well armed, but they were fierce fighters." -- Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick about the Kurds.
    So let's give 'em somethin' to fight with.
    At least they wouldn't run off and leave it all behind.

    by: Philip Smeeton from: Oslo
    August 03, 2014 2:40 PM
    Western nations should be pouring in assistance to the Kurdish freedom fighters to allow them to establish their own state.

    by: ali baba from: new york
    August 03, 2014 1:15 PM
    It seems that ISIL are using Ambush to win a war. It is hard to imagine that these punch of Fanatic, Two countries are not able to get rid of them. Is that to fulfill The Biblical Prophecy? Iraq has to work harder to get rid of them. ISIL is killing Christian.. ISIL is committing . Massacre. ISIL converted the churches into Islamic center. they destroy the cross and other statue in the church. How in god sake ,in 21 century ISIL Is surviving?. How internet is using for hate message and no body control internet? the world is out of control . England And France loose their vitality as super power. Russia is losing its vitality as a super power. When there is no super power to scare them, they are acting as a bully .

    by: meanbill from: USA
    August 03, 2014 1:12 PM
    The mongol Hulagu Khan broke the dams and flooded Bagdad and captured and killed the last Caliph of Bagdad....

    The (ISIL) army is spread all over thousands of square miles of Iraq and Syria, and they need millions of gallons of gas, don't they?.... (And), al-Maliki can defeat the "the Caliph of all Islam" al-Baghdadi, by using his planes to blow-up all the gas stations, fuel trucks and gun mounted pickup trucks, and starve the al-Baghdadi (ISIL) army of gas, (by blowing up), every fuel truck and gun mounted pickup trucks seen on the highways..... al-Maliki the magnificent?
    In Response

    by: ghallas
    August 03, 2014 6:15 PM
    Maliki doesn't have any planes. Plan B?

    by: thecrud from: Virginia
    August 03, 2014 12:51 PM
    World war three is coming. I hope that when we die in war it is not for our country but the Ideal that all men are created equal and that this shall not parish from the earth. If this is indeed the case then as said at Gettysburg it is sweet and right to die for your country.

    by: chris from: CA
    August 03, 2014 12:49 PM
    " Islamic State's ambitions have alarmed other Arab states who fear their success could embolden militants in their countries. "

    And rightfully so. This may be what it takes for Muslims to deal with the miscreants they've allowed to fester for 1400 years. Guard US borders and let them deal with it. If it gets to be a problem, "Arab states" will get involved. NO ONE kills Muslims like other Muslims... best example is Hafez Assad taking out the Muslim Brotherhood with the Hama Massacre in 1982... it makes the current Israel-Hamas skirmish look like a picnic.
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