Members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have clashed with rapid response forces manning a security checkpoint in Duz Khurmatu –a district in Salahaddin province disputed by the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)- with both sides exchanging accusations.
The skirmishes erupted earlier this week when the convoy of a PMF commander passed through a rapid response force security checkpoint in central Duz Khurmatu. Gunshots were fired during the clashes; however no casualties were reported.
Thamir Husseini, commander of the rapid response forces speaking to KirkukNow said, “The skirmishes happened when the PMF convoy wanted to pass through the checkpoint without our permission, and that is against the law.”
“We hold nothing against the PMF, but the law should be respected by everyone, regardless of their nationality or sect”, he added.
The commander of the rapid response forces stressed the need to abide by the law in order to avoid such incidents.
The rapid response forces which operate within the Iraqi ministry of interior were deployed to Duz Khurmatu in early 2018 to help restore law and order following the October 16, 2017 events, when Iraqi forces returned to the disputed territories and forced the Kurdish Peshmarga forces to withdraw as a repercussion of a referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region.
Meanwhile, Ali Husseini, a commander of the PMF who was involved in the Duz Khurmatu incident told KirkukNow, “We wanted to pass through the checkpoint, and when we arrived they told us to get out of the car and prevented us from passing through.”
According to the PMF commander, the PMF convoy was heading towards a hospital to visit a patient; however they were not allowed to pass, and that the skirmishes occurred despite that he had introduced himself.
“A crowd gathered as the clashes started and the rapid response force fired shots into the air”, said Ali Husseini, noting that the issue was later settled.
Ali Husseini who is also deputy head of the Duz Khurmatu district council said he has forgiven the rapid response force which was manning the checkpoint saying that they were new and did not know him.
Duz Khurmatu is a multi-ethnic town in Salahaddin province inhabited by Turkmens, Kurds and Arabs.