Tragic night in Khidirjija

A number of last night attacks’ victims and a vehicle of the Peshmerga forces brunt in an ambush set up by ISIL militants in Qarachukh Mountain area.

By KirkukNow

The sons of Ismail Khalil stationed on the roof of their house in the village of Khidir Jija, located at the foot of Mount Qarachukh, when they heard a number of ISIL militants infiltrated into their village. The older brothers exchanged fire with ISIS militants while their younger brother Barzan (11 years old) was providing them with bullets.

At around ten o’clock on the night of Thursday, December 2, ISIL militants raided the village of Khidirjija in Makhmour district. The residents of the village, with the support of the Peshmerga (Kurdish Fighter) forces deployed at a military station in the village, stood in the face of the militants.

“As the shooting started, we took our weapons and headed to the rooftop and stationed there. They were shooting at us with all kinds of weapons, Kalashnikovs, sniper weapons and even RPGs. We resisted as much as we could. Two of my brothers next to me were shot dead by snipers. I ran out of bullets… I screamed and asked Barzan to bring me ammunition,” one of Ismail Khalil’s sons told KirkukNow.

Barzan, only 11-years-old, responded to the call of his older brother and went to fetch bullets from one of the rooms of the house and then ran towards the rooftop.

“He went up the stairs but fell before he reached the roof,” his brother added. Barzan was hit by a shrapnel from an RPG bomb, and passed away.

Barzan was the third son of Ismail Khalil killed in that tragic night attack.

Mount Qarachukh range, east of Makhmur district and southeast of Ninewa province, is a relatively rugged area, suitable as hideout and safe haven for ISIL militants. It also represents a buffer zone between the positions of the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga forces, but the village in which the attack took place last night is under the control of the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

Makhmur district, 45 km southwest of Erbil, is among the disputed territories. After 2003, the district was administered by the KRG yet after the events of October 16th, 2017, and the return of the Iraqi forces to the disputed territories, the Iraqi government assumed responsibility for the security and administrative file of the region.

Barzan Ismail Khalil, 11 years old, died in the attack launched by ISIS militants on the village of Khidirjija

While the sons of Ismail Khalil were responding to the attack, a Peshmerga force stationed inside the village mosque came under fire, and one of them was killed after being hit by sniper fire and three others were wounded.

A source in the Peshmerga forces located in the Qarachukh Mountain region said, "While transporting the three wounded to the hospital, the vehicle had an accident, which resulted in the death of a Peshmerga and this morning, Friday, one of the Peshmerga died of his wounds."

The death toll of night attack in the village of Khidirjija was six people, three villagers and three members of the Pehsmerga forces.

After the attack, the Peshmerga forces launched a combing operation in the area to track down ISIL militants.

Colonel Najat Khawla, one of the commanders of the Peshmerga forces stationed in that area, told (KirkukNow), "A vehicle of the Peshmerga forces fell during the operation in an ambush for ISIL militants, and unfortunately seven of the Peshmerga were martyred."

The total death toll from last night's events in Makhmur reached 13, but the Ministry of Peshmerga indicated in two statements issued on Friday that only seven Peshmerga and three civilians were killed.

Colonel Najat Khawla stressed that "the Peshmerga detachment that fell into an ISIL ambush wanted to prevent the militants who attacked the village of Khidirjija from escaping."

"I was close to the site of the accident in the village of Nazi Kand, and the ambush was set up with an (Improvised) explosive device (IED)."

While the Iraqi government has declared defeat of ISIS in 2017, IS militants are regrouping in the rural areas of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. They are targeting Iraqi forces and civilians in the suburbs of Diyla, Kirkuk Ninawa, Salahaddin and Erbil, leaving tens of casualties and causing material damage to power towers, oil wells, houses, cattle, orchards and vehicles of the villagers.

Makhmur district, 60 kilometers southwest of Erbil yet under control of Iraqi federal government, consists of three sub-districts and 40 villages yet only four villages are currently inhabited, figures from local administrations show.

The Mountains of Qarachukh, adjacent to Makhmur, are located in the triangle of Erbil-Ninawa-Kirkuk, an area swept tens of times by military operation by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces yet they could not eliminate IS hideouts there.

Makhmour, March 2020: a military operation in Mount Qarachukh. Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service

After the Iraqi government announced the end of ISIL control in late 2017, the militant group constantly launched operations in that mountain range targeting security forces and civilians.

According to the commander of the Peshmerga forces in that area, "at least 40 ISIS militants participated in the attack, divided into two detachments."

The Ministry of Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Regional Government said in its statement today, Friday, December 3, "The blood of our martyrs will not be wasted in vain, and the terrorists and those who support them will pay a heavy price."

It also called for the need to "exit coordination and cooperation between the Ministry of Peshmerga, the Ministry of Defense and the international coalition from the stage of stagnation, and to start, as quickly and without any delay, with the implementation of a joint operation, and we must not allow the terrorists to remain in their hideouts and enjoy a safe haven."

The attack in the village of Khidirjija came two hours after another attack by the extremist militants on the village of Lehban, located within the borders of Sargaran district, north of Kirkuk province, adjacent to Mount Qarachukh.

Footgae of ISIL attacks in Khidirjija on Friday at night 

Ghazi Faisal, commander of the Volunteer Forces in Qarachukh - a volunteer force fighting against ISIL in that area - told (KirkukNow), "In the battle of the village of Lehban, the attack was defeated and there were no casualties."

A resident of the village of Khidirjija told (KirkukNow) this morning, "We lost three people, no one feels that his life is safe, this area is under the control of the KRG and it is it’s their duty to protect our lives."

For its part, the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region demanded the necessity of responding strongly and quickly to ISIL militants in Iraq, and stressed the strengthening of coordination between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces, with the support of the international coalition.

Regardless of the reactions and steps that will be taken in the future, Ismail Khalil has lost three of his six sons. Moreover, he is not sure if the other three will be safe.

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