Iraq: '1,600 Peshmerga fighters killed in war on IS'
A total of 1,600 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been killed since the Islamic State group took over large parts of the country in June 2014, the force’s officials said on Thursday, despite earlier figures suggesting a higher toll.
The figure applies to casualties reported since the start of the war with IS two and half years ago, Peshmerga ministry secretary-general Jabar Yawar said.
"Since the beginning of the war against Daesh, which means June 2014, until November 30 (2016), the total number of martyrs is 1,614 and the wounded are 9,515," he told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
However, Peshmerga ministry spokesman Halgord Hekmat initially told AFP the figure applied to the offensive launched on October 17 to retake the jihadist stronghold of Mosul before later correcting himself.
But the latest figure contradicts an earlier suggestion by the mayor of Iraq's Yazidi-majority town Sinjar who told The New Arab that ‘thousands’ of Kurdish fighters have died fighting the militant group.
In early November, Mahma Xelil alleged that more than 4,000 Peshmerga Kurdish fighters have died fighting Islamic State group militants over the past two years.
"We provided more than 4,000 martyrs on the battlefronts in order to restore the Iraqi lands to the heart of the nation," Xelil said.
"Still, after all these sacrifices the Peshmerga haven't received... a salary from the Baghdad government and despite facing one of the most dangerous organisations, we also haven't received any reinforcements from Baghdad."
While the Iraqi federal and Kurdish regional governments are both fighting IS, there are long-running disputes between them over territory and resources, as well as Kurdish mistrust of Baghdad and the country's Arab majority rooted in Saddam Hussein's brutal treatment of their community.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch report accused the Kurdish forces of using their fight against Islamic State in Iraq to unlawfully destroy Arab homes in disputed areas of Kirkuk and Ninevah.
The rights group found "a pattern of apparently unlawful demolitions of buildings and homes, and in many cases entire villages, between September 2014 and May 2016," it said in a report.
The destruction occurred "in 17 villages and towns in Kirkuk and four in Nineveh governorate," HRW said, adding that it was carried out "by fire, heavy equipment and explosives."
IS overran swathes of territory in Nineveh and Kirkuk and other provinces in June 2014.
But Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces have since regained most of the areas, and the northern city of Mosul is now the last held by IS in the country.