ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Clashes broke out on Thursday between the Iraqi Nineveh Guards and the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Mosul. Several injured were sustained, security sources said on Friday.
The Nineveh Guards is an Iraqi Sunni battalion supported by Turkey while the PMF is a Shia force backed by Iran.
Security sources told Kurdistan 24 the clashes erupted Thursday evening northeast of Mosul in the al-Thaqafiya complex neighborhood, near the Mosul University.
According to the sources, clashes ensued after a confrontation between the groups lead to fist fights. The fighting escalated when they opened fire on each other, injuring several troops on both sides. Kurdistan 24 could not confirm the exact number of the casualties.
It is the first case of in-fighting between the Iraqi forces since the full liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) was announced on July 10, 2017.
Many political analysts have previously warned the defeat of IS in Mosul would usher in an era of rivalry between separate forces hoping to gain more power and influence in the area.
Witnesses told Kurdistan 24 the clashes provoked panic among the local population, causing many to close their shops.
There were also reports of forces arriving in the area in a bid to manage the situation.
According to local sources, clashes broke out after a group of Nineveh Guards tried to intervene and mediate a dispute between two PMF factions, which led to the shooting. Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the accuracy of the information.
The Nineveh Guards is comprised of Sunni volunteers and ex-army officers led by the former Governor of Mosul Atheel al-Nujaifi.
The Hashd al-Shaabi is a Shia militia force established at the end of 2014 following the emergence of IS and the fall of Mosul. The group was primarily created to protect Shia shrines in southern of Iraq from the attacks carried out by the jihadist group.
Both the Nineveh Guards and the PMF were supposed to remain outside of Mosul, Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi often stated.
Many Sunni leaders are wary of the widespread accusations against the PMF, the latter denying committing abuses during the military operations to retake Fallujah, Tikrit, Baiji, and Ramadi in the past two years.
Editing by G.H. Renaud