Clashes between Iraqi army and PKK affiliated groups despite fragile truce

Ninewa, 2020: Iraqi army patrol deployed downtown in Shingal district. KirkukNow

By Ammar Aziz

Following yesterday tension, clashes erupted Tuesday in Shingal, west of Ninewa, between the Iraqi army units and militant groups affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK despite the ceasefire agreement.

At 4 am (GMT+3), armed confrontations occurred in several locations in Qahtaniya (Gir Ouzer) sub-district. The clashes stopped then were resumed 11 am., sources confirmed to KirkukNow.

Civilians and soldiers were injured when clashes took place Monday evening, April 18, at the entrance to the Dokri complex in the Sinuny sub-district of Shingal district, home to the Ezidi (Yezidi) community after the Iraqi army approached a security checkpoint for the Ezidkhan Asayish, a pro-PKK armed group, demanded them to "evacuate the military post."

There are no reports about the losses of the pro-PKK groups in the clashes yet.

“The Iraqi army without consulting us have attacked a point of Ezidkhan Asayish and wanted to take it over. Once they reached the point, our comrades asked them to wait till they call their command but they rejected it and started gunfire,” said Hasso Ibrahim, deputy director of Shingal administration council.

The Iraqi army without consulting us have attacked a point of Ezidkhan Asayish

According to sources spoke to KirkukNow, Kalashnikovs, BKC machine guns and mortars were fired in the clashes.

Ezidikhan Asayish is made up of over a thousand Ezidi militants affiliated with the Shingal Resistance Units (the Yabsha or YBSh) and receive orders from the Autonomous Administration Council in Shingal, which is considered close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, which is fighting Turkey and holding territories in Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR and the disputed territories which includes Shingal district in Ninewa province.

Yabsha and several other pro-PKK groups and forces were found and stationed in Shingal and its outskirts since 2014, after that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took over large swathes of Iraq, targeted the vulnerable Ezidi community, committing atrocities mounted to genocide.

The pro-PKK militants provided a safe escape for Ezidis which later joined the PKK militant group, accusing Baghdad and Erbil authorities of abandoning them.

“We have reached an agreement with the army at midnight to ceasefire and the checkpoint disputed to be run by the Iraqi army and our units, a group of Yabasha guerillas under Hashid al-Shabi,” Ibrahim added, in reference to the Shiite paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Committee PMC.

“Despite the agreement, the Iraqi army breached it and attacked Ezidkhan Asayish."

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Shingal, December 2021: Tension between Iraqi army units and pro-PKK protestors. Credit of Roj News

The Shingal Autonomous Administrative Council, founded years ago by several Ezidi (Yazidi), Arab parties and other components, is administering Shingal region on the ground and is considered close to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is fighting turkey since 1980s and holds territories in Iraqi Kurdistan region and the disputed territories.

Shingal Autonomous administrative Council though not recognized by the federal government in Baghdad or the Erbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government KRG is backed by the locals supporting pro-PKK groups: Ezidkhan Asayish (security), Shingal Struggle units Yabasha or YBSh and Women Protection Units YPZh based at Mount Shingal. Ezidkhan Asayish is part of YBSh, in charge of the security in the area.

The Iraqi army has not released any statement about the clashes yet.

In Mid-March, the local administration of war-torn Shingal declared a midnight to dawn curfew effective from March 16th to further notice for security reasons. Observers in Shingal say that Iraqi security forces were lately targeted by bombs fired by the groups affiliated to the PKK.

The locals are upset with the instability intrigued by the deployment of several armed parties in the area.

There are more than eight different armed groups within the borders of Shingal district, including the pro-Iran Shiite paramilitary PMF, Ezidikhan Asayish (security), Yabsha, the local police, the federal police, the Iraqi army, the Ezidkhan Peshmerga and the KRG Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) forces.

“We wanted to go to Mount Shingal to pay tribute to our dead people there but due to clashes at Jidal checkpoint, the Iraqi army did not allow us and we returned,” said Qahtan Khalaf, an Ezidi resident left IDP camp over a year ago and retuned to Shingal.

According to the Shingal agreement concluded between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG in October 2020 to reorganize the administrative, security and service file in the Shingal district, the local police, the intelligence service and the National Security Service, in coordination with the security forces of the KRG will be assigned to manage the security file of Shingal while the armed forces of the federal government will be deployed in the outskirts of the.

“At midnight, the fighting was close to our houses, only 50 meters away. I have no idea how many were injured but people all were panicked,” said Mustafa Hassan, a resident of Gir Ouzaer whom shared a video with KirkukNow filming gunfire at midnight.

Another security party to replace the Iraqi army in order to restore security

A source in Shingal police said an agreement has been concluded for ceasefire and another security party to replace the Iraqi army in order to restore security and stability.

Khudeda Alias, Chairman of the Autonomous Administration Council in Sinuny, told KirkukNow on Tuesday that clashes were ongoing up to mid-day in several areas and even mortars were fired.

In the Ezidi-dominant region of Shingal, only three thousand square kilometers, Baghdad federal and Erbil regional governments compete to establish their rule: three local administrations want to administer the district, and eight different armed groups are deployed.

Besides, Turkey-PKK conflict is a concern for Ezidis of Shingal as the Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK bases in northern Iraq. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed end of January to attack Shingal at any time in pursuit of PKK-affiliated groups based in the region.

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