Iraqi forces in Kirkuk province in October. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Rapid Response Force has been deployed to the troubled city of Tuz Khurmatu.
The spokesperson of the force, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-Ameer Mohamadawi, confirmed to Rudaw their deployment, “under the order of Haider al-Abadi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, in order to preserve security and impose law.”
Mohamadawi also asked IDPs to return.
“Any IDPs who want to return to their homes, disregarding their religious and ethnic background, they can return,” he said, stressing that they will secure the lives and belongings of the people.
The director of Tuz Khurmatu Asayesh (Kurdish security), Kawa Mala Parwez, who is not in the city, told Rudaw that the Rapid Response Force clashed with the Iranian-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Shiite militia.
“Some problems occurred between the force from the Interior Ministry and a unit from Hash al-Shaabi’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and they have opened fire on each other,” he said.
“Consequently, the Rapid Response Force arrested the head of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Khurmatu, Hasan Karim,” he added.
Parwez said the Rapid Response Force entered Kurdish-populated neighborhoods, where they disarmed Arabs and Turkmen. They are also looting homes and arresting Kurds, he said.
Spokesperson for the Hashd al-Shaabi’s northern front, Ali Husseini, said they welcomed the deployment of the Rapid Response Force.
“We demanded the presence of the Rapid Response force and the people of Khurmatu expressed their joy over their coming. They are our brothers and we demanded their support to secure the people of Tuz,” he told Baghdad Today.
He confirmed that the Iraqi force would carry out some arrests, saying they have “the names of some specified people and came to arrest them during checking operations in some places” and to bring law and impose it on everyone.
But he denied any clashes had occurred and said media reports of conflict between the Iraqi and Hashd forces were an attempt to “shake the security of the district.”
Mala Karim Shukur, head of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) office in Tuz Khurmatu, had earlier called for “a neutral military force which treats everyone equally. The force does not have to include people from every party, but at least it [must] be neutral to bring security to the area and [let] Kurdish and Arab IDPs return to the district.”
Tuz Khurmatu, home to Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs, came under Iraqi and Hashd control in October when the Peshmerga pulled out of the disputed areas. Kurds in the town were targeted with violent attacks, arson, and looting.
Thousands of Kurds from the city are sheltering in the Kurdistan Region, still unable to return to their homes.
The Iraqi parliament has voted to establish a multi-ethnic committee to investigate events in Tuz Khurmatu.