Fighting breaks out between rival Kurdish forces in northern Iraq

Published March 3rd, 2017 - 02:00 GMT
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and fighters from the Yezidi community hold a Kurdish flag. (AFP/File)
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and fighters from the Yezidi community hold a Kurdish flag. (AFP/File)

Clashes erupted Friday between rival Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, near the Sinjar mountains, local media outlets reported, raising concerns for the battle against Islamic State.

On one side is the militia of the Yezidis, a persecuted religious group, allied with the leftist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and on the other are Syrian Kurds allied with conservative Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

The incident - which reportedly saw casualties and the taking of prisoners - comes just days after Barzani visited Turkey, which is adamantly opposed to the PKK, deeming it a terrorist group.

Fighting began when forces loyal to Barzani's party entered an area controlled by the Yezidis, the Iraq Kurdish Rudaw TV reported.

Barzani maintains close ties with Turkey, and his government has called for the PKK to leave Sinjar.

The PKK and its Syrian allies, the YPG, established a presence in Sinjar in 2014 after they helped push back Islamic State, which was massacring the Yezidis. The extremist group maintains a presence in the region.

The UN says Islamic State committed genocide against the religious minority group. Thousands of Yezidi women are still held as sex slaves by the extremist militia, which has been ceding land to the YPG in Syria and Iraqi forces.

"We will protect our people till the end," a female commander of the Yezidi militia was quoted as saying by the Firat news agency, seen as close to the PKK.


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