World / Middle East

Jihadists threaten Kurds after battlefield victories

By Agencies in Baghdad and Washington (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-05 06:51

Islamic State says it will push farther into autonomous territory of Iraq

The Islamic State group warned on Monday it would seek to further expand into autonomous Kurdish territory after claiming key towns and areas over the past 48 hours.

"Islamic State brigades have now reached the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey. May God Almighty allow his mujahedeen (holy fighters) to liberate the whole region," it said in a statement.

The jihadist group listed the gains achieved over the weekend in what was its most significant territorial push since first sweeping across Iraq nearly two months ago.

It seized the large town of Sinjar on Sunday, as well as two others in the same area. It took the town of Zumar the previous day and State television and witnesses said that the Islamic State had seized Iraq's biggest dam.

Kurdish Peshmerga officials said they have pushed militants from the dam area and were in control of it. This could not be immediately confirmed.

"The mujahedeen conquered several areas controlled by secular Kurdish gangs and militias," said the statement issued by the Islamic State branch in the northwestern Iraqi province of Nineveh.

"In a daylong series of battles involving a variety of weapons, ... the apostate enemies were humiliated, dozens were killed and wounded, and hundreds fled."

The Kurdish government has not provided casualty figures nor commented on reports that several Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were captured.

The areas that Islamic State fighters took were regions the Peshmerga had moved into in the initial chaos that saw government soldiers retreat in the face of the jihadist offensive launched on June 9.

The latest fighting in Nineveh province means that the Peshmerga have largely pulled back to the old borders of their autonomous region.

It also allows the Islamic State's men to move easily between Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul, which they overran on June 10, and the Syrian border.

The US State Department said in a statement that Washington was "actively monitoring" the situation in Iraq and was helping facilitate coordination between Iraq's military and Kurdish forces.

On Sunday, Islamic State members were also involved in fighting in a border town far away in Lebanon, a sign of the group's ambitions across the frontiers of the Middle East.

It controls cities in Iraq's Tigris and Euphrates valleys north and west of Baghdad, and a section of Syria stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Aleppo in the northwest.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces against Islamic State fighters after the Sunni militants had made their dramatic push through the north, state television reported on Monday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday said that he "is alarmed to hear reports" that the seizure by the Islamic State insurgent group of districts in north Iraq has led to a mass displacement of civilians, and he voiced "his deepest concern" for the safety and security of these civilians.

AFP - Reuters - Xinhua

(China Daily 08/05/2014 page11)

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