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Barzani slams Peshmerga leaders over Sinjar withdrawal

Kurdish President, also commander-in-chief of the Peshmerga, accuses military leaders of 'negligence' over retreat from Sinjar
Yazidi refugees left stranded at Mount Sinjar on 9 August (AA)

Senior politicians and military leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan were severely reprimanded on Friday for their role in the Kurdish withdrawal from Iraq’s volatile Sinjar region on 3 August.

Masoud Barzani, President of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, announced that he has referred the party and army leaders responsible for the Peshmerga’s withdrawal to a board of inquiry to discover whether negligence was involved.

In a letter sent to the Kurdish daily al-Ra’i al-Am Barzani, who is commander-in-chief of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, said:

“After the catastrophe visited upon the Yazidis, all the political, security and military officials responsible have been relieved of their positions.”

“What happened in Sinjar did not happen to the Yazidis alone; it is an injury that has hurt us all. Those officials should not have withdrawn; they should have sacrificed themselves in defence of the region.”

Mentioning the support shown by the international community for the Kurdistan region, Barzani also stressed that the Kurdish forces are prepared to fight “terrorists” from the Islamic State.

“With the might of the Peshmerga, we will avenge ourselves on [the Islamic State] for our martyrs, for the victims of the Sinjar catastrophe and the refugees.”

The Kurdish forces have been promised military aid from the UK, the US and France.

A Peshmerga soldier quoted by Reuters said his battalion had run out of ammunition and weapons during a fight to stop Islamic State fighters from advancing towards the Kurdish capital Erbil last week.

“For every mortar round we fired, they fired 100 back”, he said, declining to mention his name – his forces had been ordered not to disclose any information about the recent operation.

After the Peshmerga’s withdrawal, some officials suggested that the retreat from Sinjar, which left tens of thousands of Yazidi people stranded in the face of the militant advance, had been a tactical decision.

However, this was strongly denied by the spokesperson for the Kurdish forces, General Halgurd Hikmat.

“There was categorically no order to withdraw from any front. There was negligence.”

The fight was widely seen as the first major test for the Kurdish forces since their successes in battling the Islamic State in June 2014. 

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