Thousands Flee after Clashes Erupt in Embattled Iraqi Town

19 April 2022, Iraq, Dohuk: Iraqi Yazidis gather at the Lalish mountain valley during the celebrations of the Red Wednesday, which marks the Yazidi New Year. (dpa)
19 April 2022, Iraq, Dohuk: Iraqi Yazidis gather at the Lalish mountain valley during the celebrations of the Red Wednesday, which marks the Yazidi New Year. (dpa)
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Thousands Flee after Clashes Erupt in Embattled Iraqi Town

19 April 2022, Iraq, Dohuk: Iraqi Yazidis gather at the Lalish mountain valley during the celebrations of the Red Wednesday, which marks the Yazidi New Year. (dpa)
19 April 2022, Iraq, Dohuk: Iraqi Yazidis gather at the Lalish mountain valley during the celebrations of the Red Wednesday, which marks the Yazidi New Year. (dpa)

Thousands or people fled a northern Iraqi town amid fierce clashes between the army and an armed faction linked to a Kurdish separatist group, the military and local Iraqi Kurdish officials said Monday.

At least 3,000 people left Sinjar and its surrounding areas, the officials said, and headed farther north toward the semi-autonomous Kurdish region to seek asylum. They left when clashes intensified on Monday between the Iraqi army and the Yazidi Resistance Forces (YBS), a group with ties to the Turkish insurgent Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK.

Many were Yazidis displaced during the 2014 ISIS onslaught and are bracing for another round of violence after returning to their homes only a few years ago.

Most of the displaced were distributed across camps in the Kurdish region, said Pir Dayan, director of the migration and crisis response department in Dohuk province, in the Kurdish-run region. The Kurdistan government has formed a committee to deal with the situation.

The violence erupted when the Iraqi military launched an operation late Sunday to clear the area of YBS forces, most of them comprised of members from the Yazidi religious minority. By Monday, the fighting spread to other areas in Sinjar district.

In a statement, the Iraqi military said Monday the offensive was to dismantle YBS checkpoints erected in Sinjar that have prevented citizens from returning to their homes and undermined Iraqi state authorities. When Iraqi military units confronted YBS forces, the statement said, they were met with heavy fire, snipers and explosives-laden devices on the roads.

The YBS has controlled much of Sinjar since 2014 driving out ISIS from the district with assistance from the PKK. Their continued presence in the area has drawn the ire of Turkey, which has been battling the PKK since the 1980s. It has led to regular Turkish military offensives on Iraqi soil to root them out.

In October 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan government signed an agreement to jointly manage Sinjar to restore the state’s hold over the patchwork of militia groups and competing authorities in the area after the defeat of ISIS. But this has proven largely unsuccessful.



Iraq Says No Green Light to Turkish Operations in Kurdistan

Smoke billows from a Turkish strike on Iraq's Duhok. (Kurdish media)
Smoke billows from a Turkish strike on Iraq's Duhok. (Kurdish media)
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Iraq Says No Green Light to Turkish Operations in Kurdistan

Smoke billows from a Turkish strike on Iraq's Duhok. (Kurdish media)
Smoke billows from a Turkish strike on Iraq's Duhok. (Kurdish media)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said on Friday his country hasn’t given Türkiye the green light to carry out operations in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

In televised remarks, he said the Baghdad government needs to hold more “security discussions with Turkish officials, even though it recognizes that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is also an Iraqi problem.”

He added that the Turkish army has been deployed in some Iraqi territories since 1991.

The deployment will be discussed during meetings with Turkish officials that will be held soon, he revealed.

Previous discussions with Türkiye did not yield an agreement over the security file, continued the FM. Türkiye is tying its deployment to the presence of the PKK.

Given that the group is present in Iraq, then it must also be dealt with in an “Iraqi way,” he went on to say.

The Turkish military’s incursion of 40 kms inside Iraqi territory had sparked widespread political and popular uproar.

Iraq’s national security council convened to address the issue.

Spokesman of the armed forces Yahya Rasool said the council tackled the Turkish violations and interference in the joint Iraqi-Turkish border regions.

He stressed Baghdad’s rejection of the incursion and undermining of Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Türkiye must respect the principles of good neighborliness and work diplomatically with the Iraqi government and coordinate with it over any security issue, he added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had dispatched a delegation led by the national security council head to Kurdistan to discuss general affairs and come up with a unified position over Iraq’s sovereignty.