ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi Shia militia leader vowed to fight any force that impedes the Iraqi forces from controlling Kirkuk, Sinjar (Shingal) and areas in the Nineveh Plains.
Qais al-Khazali, the founder and leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq, in a speech to tribal leaders in Najaf on Sunday, stated that Kirkuk is an Iraqi city that they are “ready to defend.”
“The attempt to divide Iraq is an Israeli project to keep us busy,” al-Khazali said, stating that out of the need to protect the integrity of Iraq and “patriotism, we are ready to fight for Kirkuk, Shingal and the Nineveh Plains.”
“There is no one that can prevent the Hashd al-Shaabi from entering any area in Iraq. The day will soon come that it will enter Kirkuk and disputed areas along with the [Iraqi] army,” al-Khazali.
“The battle is between those who try to keep the unity of Iraq and those who want to tear it apart,” he stated, saying that their battle is not against the Kurdish people but those who seek the division of Iraq.
Kirkuk province, Shingal, and areas in the Nineveh Plains are among the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq and are currently administrated and protected by the KRG.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shia militia faction part of the state-recognized Hashd al-Shaabi, was actively engaged in fighting the US troops in Iraq before 2011, and in the past years in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
Editing by G.H. Renaud