Three countries, including US, condemn PKK attacks on KRG security forces—ongoing since Sinjar agreement

Over the past week, three countries, including the US, issued statements sharply critical of the recent assaults by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): the US, France, and Iraq.
author_image Laurie Mylroie

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Over the past week, three countries, including the US, issued statements sharply critical of the recent assaults by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): the US, France, and Iraq.

The US statement made a particular point of describing the PKK as a “terrorist” organization, a point also made in the French denunciation of the assaults. 

PKK Attacks on Kurdish Security Forces 

The US statement followed three attacks on Wednesday by the PKK against Kurdish forces.

The first attack occurred Wednesday morning in the town of Chamanke in Duhok province. It killed one Peshmerga and wounded two others. 

Read More: PKK attack on Peshmerga ‘violation of Kurdistan Region’: KRG 

The second attack, on Wednesday evening, also in Duhok province, involved two explosive devices that targeted Peshmerga fighters. The PKK claimed responsibility for the devices.

The third attack, on Wednesday night, targeted the security forces for petroleum facilities and infrastructure in border areas of Chamanke. Two members of Duhok’s Oil and Gas Police were wounded. 

Read More: New PKK attack injures 2 policemen in Kurdistan Region's Duhok: Source 

Condemnations of PKK Assaults: US, Iraq, and France 

“The United States strongly condemns the attacks by the terrorist PKK organization yesterday against Kurdistan Regional security officials in Iraq,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Cale Brown, said on Thursday following the three assaults.

“We remain steadfast in our support for Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi and the Kurdistan Regional Government in their efforts to root out terrorism,” Brown continued, “and we extend our sympathy and condolences to the families of those killed and injured in these attacks.”

The US statement followed a similar one from the Iraqi government, issued earlier on Thursday, which affirmed that Baghdad “strongly rejects such attacks, as they are an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty,” and it vowed to take “measures that put an end” to such assaults. 

Read More: Iraq ‘condemns’ PKK attack on Peshmerga, vows to take measures: statement 

On Saturday, the French government also issued a statement, denouncing the PKK assaults.

“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out in recent days in the governorate of Duhok against the security forces of the autonomous region of Kurdistan,” the Spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry said.

“The Kurdish forces are, along with the Iraqi federal security forces, our partners in the fight against Daesh,” it continued. “France condemns these actions against them, as well as the attacks of any kind against the sovereignty and integrity of Iraq and the stability of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.”

The statement of the French Foreign Ministry concluded, “France recalls in this regard that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is considered by the European Union as a terrorist organization.” 

Read More: France condemns PKK attacks on Kurdish security forces 

The spurt of PKK attacks on the KRG’s security forces goes back to an agreement, reached last month, providing for coordinated security in Sinjar between the KRG and the Iraqi government—which includes the stipulation that armed groups currently in the area leave.

That includes the PKK. 

Sinjar Agreement 

On Oct. 8, the KRG announced that a Kurdish delegation would visit Baghdad the next day to “finalize an agreement with the Federal Government to normalize the situation and restore stability in the Sinjar district,” where Iraq’s Yezidi population was subject, in the summer of 2014, to a genocidal assault from the so-called Islamic State. 

Read More: Baghdad, Erbil to finalize new Sinjar security plan: KRG official 

After the expulsion of ISIS from the area in 2015, it was under the control of the Peshmerga. But the Peshmerga withdrew in 2017, after an Iraqi assault on the disputed territories, following the Kurdistan independence referendum. The Iraqi assault was orchestrated by Qasim Soleimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, who was later assassinated by US forces. The area has been under the control of Shi’ite militias, along with the PKK, since then.

On the same day that the KRG announced it would finalize the Sinjar agreement with Baghdad, the PKK assassinated a senior KRG security official in Duhok, marking the first such attack on the KRG. 

Read More: Kurdistan Region says PKK behind assassination of border official 

Two weeks later, the Kurdistan Region Security Council announced that it had disrupted three PKK terrorism plots.

One plot involved attacks on a foreign diplomatic mission in Erbil, along with companies from the same (unnamed) country. The second and third plots involved the assassination of KRG officials. Altogether, 27 individuals were arrested for the three plots, including Syrians and Iraqis. 

Read More: KRG Security Council foils attack on diplomatic mission, businesses: statement 

Two days later, on Oct. 28, a terrorist attack on the KRG’s oil pipeline resulted in the suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. The following day, the PKK claimed responsibility. 

Read More: KRG condemns 'terrorist attack' targeting oil pipeline 

In subsequent days, PKK attacks on the KRG escalated to targeting the Kurdish security forces themselves, causing casualties among them.

From the chronology above, it would, thus, appear that the triggering event was the Sinjar agreement, which requires the PKK, along with the Shi’ite militias, to leave the area.

The PKK has since claimed that it did not initiate hostilities, but, rather, that a camp it maintains in the area was “infiltrated” and it “regrets” the incident.

That, however, would not explain the series of escalating assaults on KRG facilities and personnel.

Editing by John J. Catherine