ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Plans are underway to erect an iron bridge to facilitate movement of civilians between Erbil and Kirkuk before the road completely reopens, a Peshmerga Commander said on Thursday.
Mohammed Regr, Commander of the Peshmerga forces at the Altun Kupri (Perde) front, told Kurdistan 24 an iron bridge would be built within the next two weeks to reopen the path between Erbil and Kirkuk provinces.
“The people of Kirkuk and Erbil have suffered greatly due to the closure of this path,” Commander Regr noted. “Some have been forced to travel long distances to get to either side.”
“After the attack by Iraqi forces and militias, the bridge between the two provinces was destroyed. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is planning to build an iron bridge, which will be completed in about 15 days,” he added.
The Peshmerga Commander said the road will now be open for the citizens of Kirkuk, Erbil, and the rest of Iraq, noting that small automobiles will be able to use the iron bridge except for large trucks.
Regarding the command and security of the area, Regr said the Perde region is under the protection of the KRG and its Peshmerga forces.
“There are two checkpoints further toward Kirkuk, where the Peshmerga and Asayish [security] forces control, and another one in Kirkuk where the Iraqi forces are in control,” he told Kurdistan 24.
“The Peshmerga will not leave their post” in Perde, the Commander added.
At the end of July, a Kurdish delegation, comprised mostly of security officials from the Kurdistan Region’s Interior Ministry, headed to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi officials regarding the reopening of the Kirkuk – Erbil road.
The path has been closed since Iraqi forces, and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias overran Kirkuk on Oct. 16 driving Kurdish troops from the region.
The move was a military response from Baghdad against the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum in September.
The road is not just a strategic route between the two cities but is a primary means for Iraqi and Kurdish travelers coming from other provinces in the south and north and vice versa.
Saad Maan, the spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday that positive steps have been taken to reopen the Erbil-Kirkuk road.
“All the roads will be reopened, and procedures have come to an end,” he said.
“What is left is the security procedures in coordination with the Peshmerga forces.”
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondents Hemin Hussein and Soran Kamaran)