ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) withdrew its fighters from the Kurdish-Ezidi populated city of Sinjar (Shingal) as Iraqi forces deployed to the area, an Iraqi military official stated on Sunday.
Iraqi forces and pro-Iran Shia Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias have been deployed to Shingal, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, told Iraqi al-Hurriya TV channel.
“The PKK withdrew from [Shingal] and surrounding areas,” Rasool said.
The PKK on Friday announced their withdrawal from Shingal area, claiming the area was now free of security threats. Their withdrawal came after repeated threats by Ankara, which declared its intention to launch a military operation in the area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday alluded to the start of a military campaign against the PKK in Shingal
“We will enter [Shingal]; military operations have started there,” Erdogan said.
In response to the Turkish threat of attack, Rasool affirmed Iraqi forces had already been deployed and are in full control of Shingal, stating no foreign troops had crossed Iraq’s border.
“It’s our job to clear the area,” the Iraqi military spokesperson said.
The Iraqi Joint Operation Command in a statement issued on Sunday evening also denied the presence of foreign forces on the Iraqi border.
“The security situation in Nineveh, [Shingal] and the border area falls under the authority of the Iraqi forces, and there is no reason for troops to cross the Iraqi border into those areas,” the statement read.
PKK fighters deployed to Shingal early Aug. 2014 after the Islamic State (IS) occupied the area.
Its presence there also led to intra-Kurdish tensions, with the Kurdistan Region demanding the PKK’s withdrawal from Shingal after the area was liberated and the extremist group expelled.
The PKK is a designated ‘terrorist’ group in Turkey, the EU, and the US.
The group took up arms against Ankara in the 1980s to demand more rights for Kurds in a conflict that has killed thousands of people on both sides.
Turkish bombardment of the vast border areas of Turkey, Iran, and the Kurdistan Region have become commonplace since the Turkey-PKK peace process broke down in July 2015.
Editing by Nadia Riva