Iraq: Clashes Continue Between Kurds, Iran-Allied Shiite Militias

Iraqi military forces and Peshmerga troops, pictured, clashed Thursday at a border crossing to Syria that is the United States' only access point for military operations within Syria. File Photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/U.S. Army/UPI
Spc. Jessica Hurst/U.S. Army/UPI

Tensions between Kurds and Iranian-backed Shiite militias sanctioned by Baghdad continue to intensify in northern Iraq, prompting young Kurdish men to fight back “the bullies” with RPGs and machine guns in the latest incident in a wave of clashes between the two groups, reports Kurdistan24.

The Kurds confronted the Iran-allied Hashd al-Shaabi, Arabic for Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/U), on Wednesday in the northern Iraq’s Khurmatu, Saladin province.

Instead of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, the incident involved “fed up” young Kurds who decided to retaliate against PMF for their unrelenting efforts to disrupt their lives, notes Kurdistan24.

“Since they occupied our area, Hashd al-Shaabi started looting and destroying people’s properties and blocking people’s movements,” a local Kurdish resident involved in the recent fighting told Kurdistan24 on condition of anonymity.

A local group organized a meeting and decided to confront the Shiite fighters and pressure them to stop “oppressing the locals,” said the volunteer fighter.

Kurdistan24 obtained footage and pictures of the alleged battle, purportedly showing the Kurdish residents using light weapons, described as “RPG, PKM machine gun, AK47, and M16.”

The PMF, legalized by Baghdad as an official component of the Iraqi military, sustained some fatalities, claimed the anonymous fighter without providing a specific figure.

Kurdistan24 learned that the recent battle involved the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) unit of the PMF.

Currently, the U.S. Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to designate the AAH and the Harakat Hezbollah Al-Nujaba units of the PMF as a terrorist group.

The AAH has attacked and more recently threatened U.S. troops in Iraq.

Since the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in September, the PMF has been using military action to pressure the Kurds to drop their efforts to become a sovereign state.

Shiite-led Iran and Baghdad oppose Kurdish independence.

In mid-October, PMF and Iraqi troops forced the Kurds out of out of the Kirkuk region and surrounding areas claimed by the KRG and Baghdad.

The PMF-backed Iraqi troops pushed “thousands” of Kurdish residents out of Khurmatu, located south of Kirkuk, reports Kurdistan24, adding that the Shiite fighters have “burned, looted, and destroyed over 2,450 Kurdish houses and shops.”

Although the United States and the Iran-allied fighters are on the same side of the Kurdish independence issue, animosity has been building up between the U.S. and some PMF units.

The KRG, long considered an American ally, has urged the United States and the international community to assist them in taking a stand against the Shiite troops.


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