ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kirkuk’s Department of Roads and Bridges on Thursday announced the completion of a temporary iron bridge in the town of Altun Kupri (Pirde), the first step in the reopening of the Erbil – Kirkuk road which has been closed since clashes between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces erupted last October.
The Department stated the highway would open before Eid al-Adha, which is scheduled for Aug. 21 this year.
The main road connecting Erbil and Kirkuk was shut down for months after the attack and Oct. 16 takeover of the oil-rich, disputed province of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
The move was a military response by Baghdad against the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum held in September 2017.
During the clashes, the Altun Kupri bridge, which connects the two provinces, was destroyed.
After several meetings between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq, both agreed to construct a temporary iron bridge, for now, to allow the flow of goods and people until the road is rebuilt.
The current iron bridge is 32 meters long and seven meters wide, according to the Department of Roads and Bridges. It can sustain most traffic with the exemption of large trucks.
The bridge will facilitate travel for Iraqis and tourists ahead of Eid al-Adha, as well as help resume trade and the shipment of goods between Erbil and Baghdad.
Two distinct security checkpoints are expected to be placed in the area, with Kurdish Peshmerga forces inspecting those entering the province of Erbil and Iraqi federal police handling people crossing into Kirkuk and other central and southern regions of Iraq.
The road is a strategic route between the two cities but is also a major highway for Iraqis and Kurds traveling between provinces in the south and the north.
Editing by Nadia Riva