ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Governor of Diyala, Muthana al-Timimi, on Sunday dismissed Mandali Mayor Abdulabbas Hussein Masir following an incident with a Shia armed militia group in the southernmost town of the Kurdistan Region's disputed territory.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an armed militia group of the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), stormed the Municipal Council of Mandali’s office and brought down the Kurdistan national flag.
After attacking the Mandali's municipality building, the militia threatened the town's officials and warned they should withdraw their decision to support and participate in the referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region scheduled for Sep 25.
Mandali is a Kurdish-majority town in the disputed territory of Diyala chose to take part in the self-determination vote for the Kurdistan Region following an Aug. 17 decision by the head and members of the Mandali Council. The town is known as the border point and southernmost tip of the Kurdistan Region before reaching Iraq.
Al-Timimi, along with a group of police forces, headed to Mandali in hopes of bringing the situation under control. The Governor, however, fired Masir and accused him of creating tensions and instability in the area according to Kurdistan 24 correspondent in Khanaqin Harem Jaff.
The Governor also claimed that Masir had violated the law by not informing the Provincial administration of Diyala ahead of its decision to partake in the referendum, the Kurdistan 24 Correspondent reported.
Kurdistan 24 learned that Kurdish officials held a meeting in Khanaqin regarding the Mandali situation.
Additionally, there was a protest in Mandali on Sunday against the decision to participate in the Kurdistan Referendum. A security official in the town told Kurdistan 24 the protesters were brought from other areas outside of Mandali, possibly under the directive of the Shia militia group affiliated with the Hashd al-Shaabi.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is one of the militia groups operating under the umbrella of the Hashd al-Shaabi and is known for its hostile comments against the Kurdistan Region.
The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed late 2014 following a decision by the top Iraqi Shia cleric, Ali al-Sistani, to protect Shia shrines in the center and south of Iraq from Islamic State (IS) attacks. The PMF is comprised of over 50 Shia groups, and in late 2016, the Iraqi parliament officially recognized the militia group as part of the national army.
Editing by G.H. Renaud