ERBIL — Shi’ite Arab militia forces of Hashd al-Shaabi were attempting to conduct a major offensive against Peshmerga in south of Kirkuk last night, said a Peshmerga commander.
Kamal Kirkuki, Commander of Peshmerga forces in southern Kirkuk, told Kurdistan 24 that Hashd al-Shaabi had deployed heavy arms to south-western Kirkuk and al-Basheer village in southern Tuz Khurmatu district, preparing to attack the Peshmerga forces in those areas.
The commander said that they were soon informed about the plan. “We were contacted from all directions that Hashd al-Shaabi was going to make a mistake. If they made that mistake, a major war would have happened,” he said, emphasizing that “Peshmerga refuses to abandon its land for Hashd al-Shaabi.”
Peshmerga will firmly respond to any military attempts against Kurdistan, Kirkuki said.
He noted that the fighter jets belonging to the US-led Global Coalition against Islamic State (IS) have been flying more frequently since Hashd al-Shaabi threatened attacks, arguing that the Coalition may have warned the militia forces against the military move.
The Peshmerga commander said that if Baghdad is concerned over the referendum, it should resolve the issues through dialogue and respect the will of Kurdistan’s people.
Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) warned yesterday about Iraqi army’s intention for a “major” military offensive against Kurdistan around Kirkuk and Mosul.
“We are receiving dangerous messages [that] the Iraqi forces, including PMU [the Shi’ite militias of Hashd al-Shaabi] and Federal Police forces are preparing a major attack,” the KRSC posted on its official Twitter account.
It also revealed that military offensives will possibly target the Kurdish forces in southwest Kirkuk and north of Mosul.
Since the independence referendum last month across Kurdistan Region and entire Kurdish disputed areas, Baghdad has taken various measures to isolate the Kurds. The government-backed Shi’ite Arab militia groups of Hashd al-Shaabi previously several times threatened that they will attack the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk if they refuse to withdraw.
Following the collapse of the Iraqi army in the wake of the IS attacks back in 2014 when Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell into the hands of the jihadists, Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga troops have been protecting Kirkuk and other territories populated by Kurds, but previously ruled by Baghdad.
The Peshmerga leadership has made it clear that they will not withdraw from their current positions as they have shed blood to protect these areas while the Iraqi army fled when IS attacked.