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The New Arab

Iraqi army 'mobilises toward Sinjar' following Turkey threats

Iraqi tanks have been deployed to protect villages in northern Iraq [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2018

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Iraq is sending tanks to Kurdish villages near Sinjar as it takes control of the region from the PKK to prevent any potential confrontation with Turkey
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has instructed the the army to mobilise around Sinjar, 80km east of Mosul, al-Araby al-Jadeed reported on Monday.

Commanders of Iraqi armoured divisions have been instructed to head to the contested town as Turkey warns of a potential offensive on Sinjar, which is held by a Kurdish militia Ankara is engaged in a three-decade war with.

According to a senior Baghdad official, the operation, led by senior commander Major General Najim al-Jobouri, aims to extend Iraqi state control over areas held by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

It is hoped this action might avert Turkish intervention in the town that was recaptured by Iraq-Kurdish and Yazidi militias from the Islamic State group. 

The area is populated by the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority who were subjected to a genocide by IS militants who captured the area in 2014, murdering Yazidi men and enslaving women and children.

The annoucement comes a day after Turkey's President Erdogan declared his intentions to expand the Olive Branch military offensive against Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq.

Sinjar would be among the targets of Turkish troops in Iraq, he said.

Turkey has already taken swathes of land in northern Syria, including all of Afrin, in an attempt to quash the Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a militia Ankara claims is linked to the PKK.

The Iraqi official confirmed that PKK units had started to withdraw from Sinjar and its surrounding villages, with the second batch of evacuations underway at dawn on Monday.

An Iraqi minister told al-Araby al-Jadeed that military brigades and combat units, along with a platoon of Abrams tanks, would be deployed in villages surrounding Sinjar, formerly under PKK control. He added that many Kurdish militants had already been evacuated.

He also noted that Baghdad informed international parties late last night that the Iraqi airforce has been given permission to shoot down any foreign aircraft entering its airspace without prior permission.

According to The New Arab, the "Sinjar Protection Units", a Kurdish-Yazidi local militia trained by the PKK and consisting of around 1,000 members, are present in the Sinjar area. 

The deputy director of the Sinjar municipality Qassam Farid, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that PKK militants vacated three government buildings and a number of their former headquarters, handing them over to the Sinjar Protection Units.

"The handover of city's control to the Iraqi army means stability and the gradual return of its people," he added.

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