1,000 Peshmerga Fighters Killed by ISIS Since June: Kurdish Official

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

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Published Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Nearly 1,000 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been killed battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group since June, a senior security official said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a monitoring group reported that ISIS has killed 50 people in Syria since the beginning of the year.

Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the ministry responsible for the peshmerga, told a news conference that 999 Kurdish fighters were killed and 4,569 wounded between June 10 and February 3.

Previous casualty figures released on December 10 put the toll at 727 killed and 3,564 wounded.

Large swathes of land in Iraq have become ISIS strongholds as the extremist group, which declared a "caliphate" in the territory it seized in Iraq and Syria, drove Iraq's army — the recipient of $25 billion in US training and funding since the 2003 invasion — to collapse in June.

Several federal army divisions collapsed in the early days of the assault, clearing the way for the Kurds to take control of a swathe of disputed territory they have long wanted to incorporate into their autonomous region over Baghdad's objections.

But after driving south towards Baghdad, ISIS turned its attention to the Kurds, pushing them back towards regional capital Erbil in a move that helped spark US-led airstrikes against the jihadists.

The Kurds have now regained most of the ground they lost, but commanders complain they remain ill-equipped compared with ISIS militants, who plundered Iraqi arms depots when they overran Mosul in June.

Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that the US-led coalition against ISIS was inadequate and said US policy would at best contain the resilient and carefully structured group.

The conflict is redrawing some of the de facto internal boundaries of Iraq in favor of broader Kurdish control in the north.

On Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement that fighting and other violence in Iraq killed at least 1,375 people including 790 civilians in January.

UNAMI added that the worst affected city was the capital, Baghdad, with 256 civilians killed and 758 wounded. Moreover, at least 2,240 civilians and soldiers were wounded during the same period.

According to UNAMI figures, last year was the deadliest in Iraq since 2006-2007, with a total of 12,282 people killed and 23,126 wounded.

50 killed in Syria in 2015

Meanwhile, a monitoring group said Wednesday that ISIS has killed 50 people so far this year in Syria, people the jihadist group accused of insulting God, spying or being enemy fighters, including a Jordanian pilot it burned alive.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the hardline group killed them mainly through beheadings and shootings.

An ISIS video showing the burning to death of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, released on Tuesday, sent shockwaves through Jordan. ISIS also published footage last month purporting to show the killing of two Japanese captives.

The group has executed thousands in Iraq and Syria, targeting, in particular, ethnic and religious minorities.

Other militant groups in Syria have also executed people in 2015, the Britain-based Observatory said. Al-Qaeda's Syria wing al-Nusra Front killed six while around 20 others were put to death by other insurgent groups, the pro-opposition Observatory said.

Four of those killed were women.

The Observatory reported in November that ISIS had killed 1,432 captives since declaring a caliphate in June.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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