BAGHDAD: The fighting sparked by Iraq’s two-month-old jihadist offensive has left 150 Kurdish peshmerga dead and around 500 wounded, the Kurdish presidency’s chief of staff said Friday.
“The peshmerga have lost 150 martyrs and had more than 500 wounded,” Fuad Hussein told a news conference in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
AFP had so far been able to confirm 74 deaths in peshmerga ranks since the start of the jihadist offensive on June 9.
It remains unclear how many were killed in some of the most recent and intense battles in the northwestern area of Sinjar, in the Nineveh plains to the east of Mosul and defending the Mosul dam.
Hussein said the peshmerga were now battling the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organization along a 643 miles (1,035 kilometers) front, meandering from Iraq’s northwestern border with Syria to regions just northeast of Baghdad.
He said there were would be three stages in the peshmerga’s action after US fighters jets started bombing IS targets Friday to stop the jihadist advance towards autonomous Kurdistan.
The first, he said, was to regroup; the second to redeploy in the areas they retreated from; and the third to help displaced people return to their homes.
Tens of thousands of people — mostly from the Christian, Yazidi, Shiite Turkmen and Shabak minorities — have been forced to flee their homes in recent days when peshmerga forces retreated in the face of jihadist attacks.