ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Six Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen were injured and one other killed in an explosion in Kirkuk province, a security source said on Sunday.
A roadside Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated after a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) vehicle drove by while patrolling the village of Najatiyah in Hawija city, southwestern Kirkuk Province, on Saturday, the security source told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity.
It is the latest attack on the militia, also known as the PMF, in Kirkuk since the bloody ambush that killed about 30 militiamen in an area not far from the recent blast site.
The source added that all members of the patrol were local fighters within the Hashd al-Shaabi’s 56th Brigade.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack took place shortly after a warning by Peshmerga forces claiming the Islamic State (IS) was re-grouping and looking to resume its activities in and around the Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces.
IS has launched a number of attacks in the country despite Iraq’s final victory over the jihadist group last year in December.
Ali al-Hamdani, a Commander within the PMF, said the Shia militia planned to carry out “significant operations” to secure Kirkuk fully, but have been waiting for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to greenlight the operations.
“As a result of the security implications in the province of Kirkuk, and the intelligence information gathered in this regard, a meeting was held between security commanders and Hashd al-Shaabi leaders,” Hamdani told an Iraqi local news outlet.
He added that the PMF would inform the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Haider al-Abadi, on progress made in the meeting, and would wait for orders to be issued as a result of the meeting.
The elite counter-terror forces and head of Kirkuk security, Major General Maan al-Saadi, recently said security services in Kirkuk had developed a “precise plan” to protect those who will celebrate Newroz.
“The festivities may include wearing different costumes and raising a variety of flags, but no flag will be raised on any building or in official form,” Saadi said.
Every year, Kurdish people celebrate Newroz on March 21. It is the beginning of Spring and marks the new year for Kurds.
Kurdish officials have complained, however, that the current authorities in Kirkuk are barring Kurds from wearing their traditional uniforms and preventing their flags from being raised despite the upcoming holiday.
Editing by Nadia Riva