Explosion targets Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia base in Kirkuk
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - An explosion on Sunday morning targeted a base belonging to Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia group within the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF), in the province of Kirkuk.
The explosion occurred in Saha Tayran neighborhood, the center of Kirkuk, a Kurdistan 24 Correspondent reported.
So far, the number of casualties remains unknown, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Islamic State (IS) extremists on Saturday launched an attack on Khabaza oil field in Kirkuk, killing at least two police officers and wounding another.
The security situation in the oil-rich and ethnically diverse province of Kirkuk has significantly deteriorated since Iraqi troops and forces from the Hashd al-Shaabi, comprised mainly of Iran-backed Shia militias, took over the area from Kurdish Peshmerga forces on Oct. 16 last year.
Kirkuk is a disputed territory between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi Federal Government. It was under the protection of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014, until they were driven out of the province in the October shock military operation.
Kirkuk is a diverse province consisting of minority groups including Turkmen, Arabs, Christians, and a Kurdish majority. The oil-rich region was under the administration of the KRG from 2014 until Oct. 2017, and the security was tight despite facing Islamic State (IS) threats on multiple fronts, in the west and southern parts of the province.
The relative stability and security it enjoyed took a turn for the worse when the area, along with other disputed territories, was included in the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 referendum on independence, which saw 93 percent of voters favoring statehood, and prompted Baghdad to impose a series of punitive measures.
The country has been gripped by a crisis between the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region since then.
Editing by Nadia Riva