ERBIL Kurdistan Region – The General Command of Peshmerga Forces of the Kurdistan Region issued a statement on Tuesday about Swedish Peshmerga volunteer Tony Ekman who they say was kidnapped by a force of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Shingal
"It has been a while that volunteer Peshmerga Tony Ekman has been kidnapped by a force of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], and (he) is still detained by the force until now. The mentioned person fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Peshmerga against ISIS for a period in Kirkuk, and then in Shingal," the Peshmerga command said.
The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said that it will do what it can to secure his release
"We express our concerns against this act, and hold the PKK forces accountable for the life of this Peshmerga," the statement continued.
Zardasht Shingali, commander of Shingal Protection Units (YBS), told Kurdish media around midday on Tuesday that his force does not hold any foreign prisoners, Peshmerga or otherwise.
A statement from the YBS denied that they hold the Swedish fighter in detention adding that he can head to Sweden any time he likes so.
“An international fighter with the name [sic.] Tomi had come and joined the YBS ranks at his own will," a statement by the YBS command told ANF, a PKK-affiliate media, "And whenever he wishes so, he can leave to his country.
The statement continued on to accuse what it called the forces of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of preventing the foreign fighters from returning to their homes as it made reference to some foreign fighters who were detained by the Kurdish security, also known as Asayish.
Rudaw reported in December 2016 about the detention of a Canadian foreign fighter by the Kurdistan Region caught near Duhok. He was then released after a week in jail.
PKK affiliate detains Swedish Peshmerga fighter in Shingal, Swedish media
STOCKHOLM, Sweden— A militia group close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has detained a Swedish man who is believed to have fought against the ISIS along with the Peshmerga forces, according to a reprot published by the Swedish daily Aftonbladet Monday.
The paper says the 51-year old Swede, named Tony, was arrested by the Shingal Protection Units (YBS) in the Yezidi town of Shingal where rivalling Kurdish groups have clashed over political influence.
Zardasht Shingali, the YBS commander, refused to comment when reached by Rudaw English, instead he referred Rudaw to an unpublished interview he conducted with a Kurdish outlet.
According to the paper, Tony fought against the ISIS group for over a year, but now he is said to have been captured by a Kurdish group in what may be a power struggle between different organizations.
Shervan Derki, the spokesperson for the Roj Brigade, also known as the Rojava Peshmerga, with whom the YBS entered an armed clash early in Shingal in March, told Rudaw English that Tony was a YBS fighter when the March clashes erupted. Tony refused to fight against the Peshmerga, Derki claimed, according to his own sources, and therefore the YBS put him in prison for refusing their order.
In a message to his brother Tony pleads for help.
“It feels like hell,” he has told his brother, according to the paper.
"Hello! Hope all is well with you and the family. Here is like hell. Contact Aftonbladet and say that I am being held captive by a group of Kurds,” Tony is said to have told his brother who for security reasons requested anonymity.
“Tony was captured by a Kurdish group known as the YBS,” his brother says.
“He sits in jail in the town of Shingal, located in northern Iraq, near the border with Syria. He cannot move from there and not participate in any battles,” says the brother.
“It feels like hell. He went down there to do something good, and this happens. My brother rarely asks for help, but now he wants this to be known since this organization (YBS) is afraid of negative images about them spread in the media,” he says.
The paper says Tony, who grew up in the west of Sweden and has military training, went to Iraq for about 1.5 years ago. He joined the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who waged a war against the terror group ISIS. Since then he has fought with several organizations, according to his brother.
Aftonbladet has been in contact with Tony too. He told the paper that the situation has worsened in recent days.
"Sick situation. I have fought with Kurds against the religious fanatics in several places in Iraq, and now this grouping turns against me," Tony has told the paper.
"I think those who keep me locked here are a bunch of thieves who are out of control."
The reasons behind Tony’s misfortune could be found in a power struggle between different Kurdish groups, according to the paper.
“YBS wants people to fight against other Kurdish associations. But my brother refused to do that. He does not want to bear arms against their own, and therefore they have taken him.”
He says Tony has actively participated in combat several times and has survived mostly unharmed.
"No physical harms. But I get no food and am so hungry. Water, I have some," Tony writes to his brother from the jail, and continues:
"I'm totally unsure of what will all these lead to. I don’t understand why they are messing with me instead of fighting against the ISIS.”