Christian men join Kurdish forces to fight IS

Members of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Makhmour, northern IraqAP/Press Association Images

Christians in Kurdistan, northern Iraq are being called to join the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in fighting against the Islamic State.

BasNews, a news agency based in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, said they had seen a copy of the Ankawa town directorate calling Christian men aged 18-30 to enlist.

Registration began in Ankawa, a predominantly Chaldean suburb of Erbil, on September 14, for four days.

"Representatives of the ministry of Peshmerga visited Ainkawa to recruit Christians," Jalal Habib Aziz, the mayor of Ankawa, told Kurdish media network RUDAW.

According to Aziz, the call for recruits comes in response to Christian leaders asking for members of their community to be allowed to join the fight in order to "protect themselves and their areas".

Hundreds of thousands of Christian fled to Kurdistan when majority-Christian cities Mosul and Qaraqosh were captured by Islamist militants between June and August.

There are thought to be about 190,000 Peshmerga, some of whom are defending the 600-mile frontier against IS.

They have been working with Iraqi forces in an unusual display of unity between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq.

The better-equipped IS fighters are stationed about 30 miles from Erbil. 

The United States launched its first air strike against IS targets yesterday, as part of a new strategy to support the Kurds' line of defence and "degrade and destroy" the militant group.