A Kurdish security official confirmed Tuesday that hundreds of suspected self-styled Islamic State militants surrendered to Kurdish authorities after Iraqi government forces reclaimed the IS base in Hawija, a major Iraqi city north of Baghdad.
“Approximately 1,000 men surrendered over the last week. Not all, however, are terrorists,” the security official said, explaining that many militants surrendered to Kurdish Peshmerga —the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan— near the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk, east of Hawija, Sputnik reported.
“It’s fair to say hundreds probably are [IS] members, but that will be clear after the debriefs,” the official, who asked to stay anonymous, added.
According to Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on IS who spoke with some of the surrendered militants in the Dibis camp near Kirkuk, “[The militants] no longer seem to believe in the cause,” Reuters reported.
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio recording two weeks ago, further solidifying speculation that he remains alive, despite reports from months past that he had been killed. In his recording, he implored his followers to continue fighting despite the blows they’d suffered in Iraq and Syria.
The group is still in control of some territory in Iraq along the western border with Syria, including the town of al-Qaim.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claimed that IS militants would be defeated once this final piece of territory is recaptured before the end of the year.
IS currently has command over territories on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, but are gradually being defeated by the Iraqi forces, and Syrian government troops and its allies supported by Iran and Russia.
In July, after a nine-month battle, IS’s cross-border caliphate crumbled after Iraqi forces recaptured its de facto capital of Mosul.
Court Orders Arrest of Vote Organizers
In unrelated news, an Iraqi court has ordered the arrest of the chairman and two other members of the commission that organized the 25 September vote for Kurdish independence, a judicial official said.
The court in Baghdad acted in response to a request from the National Security Council (NSC) headed by the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar told AFP, Middle East Eye reported.
The court issued warrants against chairman of the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (KHEC), Hendren Saleh, and members Yari Hajji Omar and Wahida Yofo Hermez.
A member of the KHEC media committee confirmed the news to Middle East Eye, but said it was “stupid” of the courts to think that their warrants mattered in Kurdistan.
In an statement on Monday announcing a series of measures designed to increase pressure on the autonomous region which voted overwhelmingly to split from Iraq, the NSC said that the country’s general prosecutor had launched a legal case against the referendum officials.
In addition to proceeding with the vote, the officials were being sought for legal action because they violated an 18 September Supreme Court ruling which called for the vote’s suspension.
The NSC also said the government would seek to take control of Kurdistan-based mobile phone operators and move their headquarters to Baghdad.
The statement did not name the networks involved, but they are believed to be Korek and Asiacell.
The government, according to the statement, will also continue to pursue an ongoing probe into oil revenues which were deposited in Kurdistan’s financial institutions and officials’ bank accounts.
date: 12 October 2017 id: 11302 source: