Iraqi forces, Yezidi PKK-affiliated militia clash near Syrian border

Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and five Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) fighters were wounded on Sunday in clashes between the two groups in the disputed territory of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said.
author_image Kosar Nawzad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and five Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) fighters were wounded on Sunday in clashes between the two groups in the disputed territory of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said.

This is the latest development in the Yezidi (Ezidi)-majority area of Sinjar, which Turkey has previously bombarded on multiple occasions reportedly targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions—operations that may be violating Iraq’s sovereignty as Baghdad has stated they were not coordinating with Ankara on the strikes. The YBS is an affiliated force of the PKK in northern Iraq.

A group that has been fighting a decades-long insurgency with Ankara over Kurdish rights and self-rule, the PKK, along with its affiliates, is considered by Turkey to be a terrorist organization and Ankara has vowed to take the fight against them wherever it might lead them.

The confrontation occurred in the area of Hasawik near the Syrian border, part of the Snuny subdistrict in Nineveh’s Sinjar district.

The security media cell of the Iraqi Interior Ministry explained in a statement that the incident occurred after an Iraqi checkpoint officer stopped a vehicle reportedly carrying members of the militia group and asked for identification papers, which the “PKK fighters failed to produce.” According to the statement, “the fighters then drove over the soldier and attacked the checkpoint.”

The statement added that an armed clash ensued, leading to the deaths of two Iraqi soldiers and wounding five PKK fighters.

The initial statement specifically named the alleged attackers to be PKK fighter but later corrected it to members of the YBS militia. The PKK helped create the local pro-government forces in Sinjar, recruiting local Ezidis to join the fight against the Islamic State, forming the YBS.

In 2014, the Islamic State overran Sinjar and surrounding areas, committing mass genocide and numerous heinous acts against the ethnoreligious minority group.

In a follow-up statement, the Iraqi media cell said the clashes took place after a “group of four" crossed into Iraqi territory from Syria. The Iraqi army then “surrounded” the four suspects, following which, “a YBS force came to help the [four] people, and clashes broke out,” the statement said.

Reports from PKK-affiliated media outlets, however, accused Iraqi soldiers of opening fire on YBS fighters at the checkpoint in question. Furat news agency reported the clashes were brief.

Although the PKK helped established the YBS, it is widely believed that the Hashd al-Shaabi is financially supporting the Ezidi group.

Following the incident, the deputy chairman of the Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, arrived in Sinjar early Monday to be briefed on the events of Sunday night, local sources told Kurdistan 24.

In his last visit to Sinjar, the chairman of the Hashd al-Shaabi, Falih al-Fayyad, called on all local armed groups to join the official security apparatus of Iraq and affirmed that no faction would be allowed to operate as a militia.

Editing by Nadia Riva