Peshmerga soldiers posing behind a sand-bag position in Kirkuk.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Islamic State (IS/ISIS) militants have abandoned positions in northern Mosul and retreated into the city after heavy Iraqi air force bombardment on Thursday, with large numbers reported killed or wounded.
Meanwhile on the Kirkuk front, Kurdish commanders said the jihadist armies had pulled out many fighters and most likely had dispatched them to Mosul, the IS stronghold and capital of their self-declared Islamic Caliphate.
Thursday’s bombardment of Mosul by the Iraqi air force came amid the start of a Western surge of support for the Kurdish war effort.
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama authorized air strikes against the militants to stop them from advancing toward Erbil and pledged to help tens of thousands of Kurdish Yezidis hiding from the IS on Mount Shingal, where dozens have died and the death toll mounts daily.
Despite the quieter Kirkuk front on Friday Sarhad Qadir, chief of the city’s suburban police, warned it was too early to conclude that the Islamists are in retreat.
“It could be a military tactic and we shouldn’t sit back and say their forces are gone and everything is over,” he told Rudaw. “Now more than ever, the Peshmerga and other forces have to be careful and ready,” he said.
A Peshmerga official said that the bombs dropped by the Iraqi air force jets on Thursday evening had killed a large number of IS militants.
“We also have intelligence that a large number of ISIS militants have been admitted into Mosul hospitals,” he told Rudaw.
The Kurdish forces said they had noticed decreasing IS activity in their territory opposite the Kurdish defensive lines 35 kilometers south of the city.
Kurdish forces have been locked in daily clashes with the Islamic militants south of Kirkuk for almost two months, but the Kurdish defense lines are stronger in this oil-rich province.
A Rudaw reporter in Makhmour, another frontline of the Kurdish forces and IS, said the Peshmerga are ready for any orders to attack the militants, who are within range of their heavy guns.
The reporter said that fighter jets flew over Makhmour and IS positions on Thursday, but without dropping bombs or engaging in battle.
Obama on Thursday evening authorized air strikes against the militants in northwestern Iraq and humanitarian operations to “help save” the Yezidis dying on Mount Shingal.
“Perhaps tens of thousands and are now hiding on a mountain with little but the clothes on their backs, and without food, without water, people are starving, children are dying of thirst,” he said.
He noted that IS forces “have called for a systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people.”
“We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent an act of genocide,” he said.
His comments followed support from France and Britain.
French President Francois Hollande said Paris “was available to support forces engaged in this battle,” following a telephone call with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani.
France requested a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, in which members will be briefed on the ongoing IS offensive against the Peshmerga forces.
Also, Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, condemned Islamic State brutality in the region and said an $8.4 million donation to the UN’s refugee agency and other aid groups would help 140,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes.