Kurdish authorities arrested six clerics in Erbil– an Iraqi city that has become a key safe haven for Christians and Yazidis fleeing the wrath of ISIS– on suspicion of loyalties to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
“Three clerics were arrested in the city of Erbil, and one in the town of Harir in the province of Erbil, another in Bardarash area in the province of Dohuk, and one in Zaryan, Sulaimani province, on charges of encouraging ISIS ideology and inciting violence,” one anonymous source told Rudaw.
There are a few within the government who expressed doubts about their association with the terrorist group.
“This issue has got to do with the security authorities in the Kurdistan Region. They should speak about this matter,” said Kamal Muslim, Kurdistan Regional Government’s minister of Religious Affairs.
In November, Kurdish authorities arrested cleric Mullah Shwan for joining the Islamic State. He appeared in a video in early February “that threatens the Kurdish leaders and vows to take control of the Kurdistan region.” Shwan also brought his wife and children with him.
Kurdish soldiers, known in Iraq as the Peshmerga, continue to fight against the Islamic State. On Friday, the Peshmerga fought back against an attack in Shingal. The forces managed to kill Islamic State leaders Abu Yaqub and Abu Omar.
“The militants launched the assault at 9:30 last night,” explained commander Hasim Sitai. “We are making a solid plan to re-launch an assault on the ISIS in Shingal with the aim of driving them totally out of the area.”