Fighting takes place around Altun Kupri, just outside KRG
GOVERNMENT and Kurdish forces exchanged fire yesterday near the border of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.
Baghdad troops shelled Kurdish regional government (KRG) positions north and south of Altun Kupri, a town of about 9,000 people just outside the region, a day after the army warned it would enter the town.
The Defence Ministry said government troops had retaken the town by midday, though the KRG disputed that.
The fighting was the latest stage in Baghdad’s reassertion of government control over areas seized by the KRG after Isis began its conquest of northern Iraq in 2014 and the Iraqi army crumbled.
Karim Nuri, commander of the government-backed PMU militia, told Kurdish Rudaw News that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had ordered his forces not to enter the Kurdish region.
Erbil governor Nawzad Hadi said the city was “stable, calm and there is no threat to the capital.”
Meanwhile, a Baghdad court issued an arrest war
rant for the KRG’s vice-president of Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdish region on Thursday for saying that Iraqi forces had “occupied” the disputed province of Kirkuk this week.
However, the warrant against Kosrat Rasul is unlikely to be executed as the central government in Baghdad has no enforceable authority in the Kurdish-administered north.
The court accused Rasul of “insulting” Iraq’s armed forces, which is forbidden by Iraqi law.
In Kirkuk, residents were coming to terms on Thursday with the handover of the city back to Baghdad authorities. Many felt the two leading Iraqi Kurdish parties had betrayed their people and had ordered the peshmerga to pull back with hardly a fight.
Many Kurds are wary of the Shi’ite-led PMU militias that helped Iraqi forces retake the city. Predominantly Shi’ite and backed by Iran, they are seen by Kurds as agents of Arab- and Shi’ite-first policy.