The liberation of Mufti was part of a large offensive launched before dawn on Sunday by some 5,000 Peshmerga and Zeravani Special Forces to liberate about 10 villages belonging to the Kakei and Shabak Kurdish minorities.
The villages are abandoned: residents fled to the Kurdistan Region when ISIS attacked two years ago.
The Peshmerga entered Mufti, a Shabak village, after coalition forces targeted ISIS positions and Peshmerga fired on the militants with tank shells and heavy caliber machine guns.
Rudaw English joined the Peshmerga as they entered the village school, after ISIS guns fell silent and there was no sign of the militants.
Peshmerga forces which had moved on the village from two different directions linked up in the village center.
It was at that moment that an ISIS suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt sprang out of a small tunnel where he had been hiding, shot dead a brigadier and wounded his bodyguard in the leg. The bomber detonated his explosives belt as he was shot by other Kurdish soldiers.
Rudaw English was the first to arrive on the scene to see the dead and wounded.
As the Peshmerga searched the village, they were also attacked by two very large car bombs, whose explosions shook the ground.
In addition to the dead brigadier and his wounded bodyguard three Peshmerga were injured in an earlier morning assault and another fighter later suffered a hand injury.
After clearing Mufti of militants some Peshmerga stayed to look for explosives and any sign of resistance while the majority of them encircled the village with their tanks and heavy guns. The Peshmerga walked about the village cautiously not to set off the long cables connected to roadside bombs and booby traps left behind by the ISIS militants.
Khalid Jabbar, a Peshmerga who has served in the region since 2005 and who used to come to Mufti on patrol missions before the ISIS takeover, said that the militants had destroyed the area beyond recognition.
“Life in this village was normal, people lived on farming, raised livestock and they used to go to Erbil looking for day labor,” Jabbar told Rudaw English. “But then ISIS came and they destroyed everything.”
The Peshmerga have secured a strategically-important plateau which overlooks the much larger nearby town of Badana.
One Peshmerga officer told Rudaw English that Badana is populated with about 300 houses. But he was unsure if Sunday’s operation would include an attempted offensive against that town.
Since the beginning of Sunday’s operation, the Peshmerga have been extending their front-line by establishing new bunkers and erecting large protective mounds.
Among the ultimate goals of the operation is not only the liberation of the villages in the area, but also the extension of Kurdish front-line closer to Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq that is only a 25-minute drive from Mufti village.
The liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been in the making for months. Iraqi forces and its allied militias, the Peshmerga and US-led coalition forces have been coordinating an anticipated offensive.