After Kirkuk, Kurdish forces pull out of more areas in Iraq
KIRKUK, Iraq (AP) — Kurdish forces lost more territory in Iraq on Tuesday, withdrawing from the town of Sinjar a day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of the disputed city of Kirkuk.
It was the second hasty withdrawal for the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, from territory they contest along with Iraq’s central government and following the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum last month.
The referendum, though not binding, reflected the Iraqi Kurds aspirations for independence for their autonomous northern region. The vote was rejected by the central government in Baghdad, as well as Turkey, Iran and the United States.
Masloum Shingali, commander of the local Yazidi militia in Sinjar, said the peshmerga left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Iraqi militiamen to move in.
Yazidis were massacred by the Islamic State group when the jihadis seized the town in 2014. More than 2,000 were killed, and thousands of women and children were taken into slavery. Kurdish forces, supported by U.S. airstrikes, liberated the town in 2015.
Town Mayor Mahma Khalil said the Iranian-supported Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of mostly Shiite militias, were securing Sinjar. The militias are recognized by Iraq’s government as a part of its armed forces but are viewed with deep suspicion by the country’s Kurdish authorities, which see them as an instrument of Tehran and its Shiite-first policies.
The Kurdish forces “left immediately, they didn’t want to fight,” Shingali said.