As the Islamist offensive in Iraq continues, dragging Iran and possibly the United States into the fighting on the side of the central government in Baghdad, there are growing indications that the country’s Kurds are preparing for a fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
On Wednesday, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani called on all retired fighters from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to return to their former units.
“As a result of the current situation along the Kurdistan Region borders, and in order to defend our people and to safeguard the achievement of the people of Kurdistan, it is the duty of all the people of the Kurdistan Region to demonstrate their support to the peshmerga and security forces of Kurdistan,” said Barzani in a statement.
Kurdish media showed crowds of middle-aged — and older– retired peshmerga troops reporting to recruitment centers.
Skirmishes between peshmerga fighters and ISIS have become more common in recent days.
Kurdish media reported that peshmerga forces battled ISIL militants in the town of Jalula last week, driving the Islamist fighters out while losing two of their own.
They continued to fire at each other this week.
The Kurdish newspaper Rudaw reported that close to midnight Thursday a group of ISIS fighters attacked Kurdish troops near Mosul, killing one peshmerga officer. The commander of the peshmerga unit said he did not know how many ISIS militants were killed in the fighting.
Rudaw also reported that two peshmerga fighters captured by ISIS earlier in the week were still alive, and were being held as bargaining chips.
The two Kurdish fighters, one a captain, were snatched when they drove up to an ISIS checkpoint near Mosul.
ISIL seized Iraq’s second city Mosul and a swath of its north and center over the past 10 days, prompting talk of possible cooperation between Washington and Tehran to help stop the insurgency.
A top Iranian official said on Wednesday that Tehran could consider working with the United States over the crisis in Iraq if talks on its nuclear program are successful.
AFP contributed to this story.