SHAFAQNA – A Shia militia fired on Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and arrested a number of soldiers, local officials said on Thursday. The confrontation occurred near Tuz Khurmatu, southeast of Kirkuk, at a checkpoint separating Peshmerga-held areas from territory held by a local affiliate of the Badr Organization, whose militant wing is one of the most powerful Shia militias in Iraq. The reported incident was described as having taken place in recent days.
Kirkuk, which Peshmerga forces secured after the Iraqi army fled an Islamic State offensive in August, is regarded by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil as Kurdish territory. But this is disputed by Baghdad and by leaders of the Shia and Sunni communities.
Two Peshmerga were injured in the attack, which the officials claim was instigated by the Shia militia.
“I barely survived the attack, and then they wanted to arrest me even though I was injured,” Shakhawan Kareem told Rudaw. The group arrested ten Peshmerga in the wake of the stand-off, but later released seven. Local officials said the Shia threatened they would send the three remaining Peshmerga to Baghdad for trail, although the Kurdish officers present said that had not happened yet.
“This problem was caused by a misunderstanding,” Shalal Abdul, the mayor of Tuz Khurmatu told Rudaw. He has convened an emergency committee to try to resolve the issue.
The Badr Brigades and Peshmerga forces have cooperated on a number of offensives—most successfully the battle of Amerli at the end of August—but they have also clashed on several occasions, especially in the area south of disputed Kirkuk.
A local, wishing to remain anonymous for fear of his safety, indicated that many of the area’s Sunni residents fled the area after repeated harassment from the Shia militia.