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Iranian-backed militia warned to keep away from Yezidi areas

Barzaniā€™s warning was aimed at the Popular Mobilisation Forces militia (Hashd Al-Shaabi)
Image of militants raising the Iraq and Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) flag [Mahmoud Hosseini/Wikipedia]
Militants can be seen raising the Iraq and Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) flag, 27 January 2017 [Mahmoud Hosseini/Wikipedia]

A Kurdish leader has warned an Iranian-backed militia to keep away from Yezidi areas in Sinjar. Masoud Barzani accused the group of breaching an agreement which rejects any Shia presence in the Kurdish region.

Barzani's warning was aimed at the Popular Mobilisation Forces militia (Hashd Al-Shaabi) during a meeting with security and military officials from Sinjar following a campaign by the PMF to control villages around the Yezidi town over the weekend. Kurdish sources reported that the militia laid siege to the Yezidi areas of Tal Qasab and Tal Banat on Saturday and Sunday. A Kurdish Peshmerga military official who attended the meeting between Barzani and Sinjar officials told Rudaw TV that the Shia group had changed its plans by attacking Yezidi-populated areas and breaching the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad.

It was reported that the PMF militia has been fighting to clear Daesh fighters out of the area for three days. To date it has captured nine Turkmen and Arab-inhabited villages and besieged two Yezidi complexes. The Hashd forces launched their operation to recapture areas west of Mosul in the early hours of Friday, as the Iraqi army has been engaged in fierce fighting in western Mosul.

While the PMF militia has been retaking towns and villages near Mosul and close to the Syrian border, Kurdish military officials have accused Iran of leading the Shia offensive. Tehran, they allege, has long been trying to open a corridor from northern Iraq into Syria. Peshmerga fighters speaking to Rudaw noted that Iranian and Iraqi Shia support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has to be seen in this light.

"Iran has started the plan through the Hashd Al-Shaabi and they are now just 60 kilometres from the Syrian border," said Sarbast Lazgin, who is overseeing Peshmerga forces in Sinjar. "However, I do not believe that Iran's dream will become a reality because if the Hashd makes further advances, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and America will respond."

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