Kurdish Peshmerga troops and Iraqi military forces, backed by US airstrikes and international arms support, launched an attack on Friday to retake the critical strategic town of Jalawla from Islamic State militants.
Jalawla, one of the southernmost towns in Kurdish Iraq about 115 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, has been a continuous battle ground between Peshmerga and IS fighters for well over the past two months. It is also an important stop along the road from Baghdad to Iran, and is only 32 kilometres away from the Iranian border.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party official Shirko Mirwais stated that the mission to reclaim Jalawla had already left several dead on both sides, however the death toll is unknown, and that nine Peshmerga fighters had been wounded.
“The Peshmerga advanced on Jalawla from several directions” he said, also indicating that the Kurdish fighters had already retaken key positions and cut off the militants.
Elsewhere, Iraqi troops advanced on another town, Saadiya, also located near the Iranian border, and not far from Jalawla.
Meanwhile, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), an American broadcast network, ran a report on female Peshmerga fighters joining in the battle to liberate Iraq from the Islamic State. One all-female unit in particular has been operating since 1996, having been trained to resist aggression under the regime of Sadam Hussein. PBS quoted the commander of that unit, Colonel Nahida Ahmed Rashid, saying that “They’ve taken up arms and gone to battle to protect Kurdistan, but also to say that there’s no difference between men and women.”
An all-female Peshmerga unit
Another female soldier said that “The jihadists don’t like fighting women, because if they’re killed by a female, they think they won’t go to heaven.”