Without becoming a part of the Syrian conflict, Kurdistan is attempting to stay autonomous in its preparation to strike militants in the region, President Massus Barzani told AFP.
After violence in Irbil, a rare area for activity, Barzani commented. Seven people were killed by militants who carried out an attack on a security service headquarters in the capital in the Kurdish region. “We will not hesitate in directing strikes (against) the terrorist criminals in any place,” Barzani said in an exclusive interview with AFP, when asked about the possibility of Kurdish action against militants in Iraq or Syria. “Our duty is to protect the Kurds if we are able,” he said. With that in mind, the Kurdish leader stressed a distinction between that and being drawn into Syria’s civil war, which he said the Kurds must avoid. “Our opinion is that the Kurds must stand at the same distance” from all parties in the conflict, so “the Kurdish people are not forced into a war” from which they will gain nothing, Barzani said. Kurdish forces have already been a part of the fighting however, running into jihadist groups fighting President Assad's regime who want to secure access connecting them to Iraq. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurdis have crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan due to the violence. Barzani claimed that Iraqi Kurdistan has provided training to Syrian Kurds so they could defend their communities near the borders. “A number of young (men) were trained, but truly not with the aim of entering the war,” Barzani said. Al-Qaeda has claimed the attack on Irbil and calls it a response to Barzani’s efforts to support government in Baghdad as well as to Kurdish forces attempting battle with Syrian jihadists. In early 2007, a truck bomb exploded in Irbil, killing 14 people and wounding more than 80. This recent attack is the first of its kind since May 2007.