More than 700 Peshmerga killed since June

Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State (IS) insurgents withdrew in this August 18, 2014.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State (IS) insurgents withdrew in this August 18, 2014.

Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said Wednesday that 727 of its fighters have been killed in the conflict against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants since they launched their offensive in June.

A statement from the region’s military forces, known as the Peshmerga, said 3,564 members of the Kurdish security forces had also been wounded over the past six months.

The dead and wounded included “officers, non-commissioned officers, members of the Asayish (intelligence agency), of the police and some Peshmerga veterans,” the statement said.

The Peshmerga ministry said the tally covers the six months going back to June 10, the day after ISIS fighters who already held swathes of land in Syria launched a devastating offensive in Iraq.

The statement said 34 members of the Kurdish security forces are also still reported as missing.

The last overall toll released by an official Kurdish source was on August 8, when the regional presidency’s chief of staff Fuad Hussein said 150 Peshmerga had been killed.

When the jihadists launched their major offensive in Iraq on June 9, the federal Iraqi forces collapsed, commanders and foot soldiers alike often abandoning their posts without a fight.

The Peshmerga moved in to the vacuum and took over several disputed areas they had long claimed from the federal state, de facto expanding the size of their region by around 40 percent.

However they were forced out of several of their newly acquired territories when ISIS fighters — who had made Iraq’s second city of Mosul their main hub — launched a second offensive in August.

The fresh advance brought ISIS to within striking distance of the Kurdish capital of Arbil, which was one of the justifications put forward by U.S. President Barack Obama when he ordered air strikes four months ago.

Several other nations — including Britain, France and Australia — have since joined the air campaign and the Peshmerga have also received foreign assistance in the shape of weapons, military advisers and training.

“Peshmerga forces have succeeded in pushing ISIS away from several Kurdistan regions and in transitioning from a defensive to a offensive phase,” Wednesday’s statement said.


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