The Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd al-Shaabi), a Shiite militia movement in Iraq, has continued to attack Kurdish territory in an attempt to push back Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and take full control of the area, reports BasNews.
Iran-backed Shiite militias are reportedly fighting under the Hashd al-Shaabi flag.
“Clashes between Hashd al-Shaabi and Peshmerga forces took place in Tuz Khurmatu last week with several casualties,” reports Bas News, a Kurdish media outlet. “Delegations from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraqi central government met soon after to find a solution to the dispute and exchange prisoners.”
“The clashes resumed soon after the meeting, and Shi’ite militias killed another Kurdish civilian,” it adds.
BasNews learned from an unnamed source that the Popular Mobilization Units had sent reinforcements to the Kurdish area in an effort to drive Kurdish forces out of Tuz Khurmatu, Jalawla, and Saadia.
“By negotiating with Kurdish officials and signing agreements, the source added, Shi’ite militias buy more time to develop their plans against Kurds,” reports BasNews.
Shiite militias stationed in Tuz Kurmatu are “unorganized forces with no commitment to any principle or accord,” asserted Mustafa Chawrash, the Peshmerga commander on the frontline in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Although they want to avoid being drawn into another front, Kurds will not retreat from the areas under attack by Shiite militias, insisted Chawrash.
The Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces are already fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) on the ground with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes.
Chawrash accused the Shiite militias in Tuz Khurmatu of being associated with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Hashd al-Shaabi create tensions as they are not pleased by the latest Peshmerga gains against Islamic State in Sinjar,” noted the Peshmerga commander.
“Shiite militias must be driven out of Kurdish areas soon, as they have a long history of posing a threat to Kurdish residents,” indicated Bestoun Fayaq, head of the Parliamentary Committee for Kurdish Disputed Areas, in an interview with BasNews.
Citing anonymous witnesses, Rudaw reported on Nov. 16 that a 14-year-old boy was killed by a Hashd al-Shaabi sniper in the town of Khurmatu in Iraq’s Diyala province, 50 miles south of Kirkuk.
On Thursday, Rudaw reported that Hashd al-Shaabi freed 15 Kurds from the Iraqi Kurdistan region who had been arrested by the Shiite movement.
The liberation of the prisoners came after talks between Hashd al-Shaabi and Peshmerga officials to de-escalate tensions.
Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen are also fighting ISIS in Iraq. In July, they joined Iraqi troops in launching an attack to retake Fallujah from ISIS, prompting the jihadist group to declare a state of emergency inside the city.
Fallujah remains under ISIS control.