Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment


Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using





As Militants Fight on in Iraq, Kurds Worry About ‘Sleeping Cells’ in Kirkuk

By Rudaw 24/6/2014
A homeless Arab man at a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region, where thousands have arrived since the fall of Mosul a fortnight ago.
A homeless Arab man at a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region, where thousands have arrived since the fall of Mosul a fortnight ago.

KIRKUK – Kurdish authorities controlling the city of Kirkuk since mass Iraqi army desertions report large numbers of Arab refugees trying to move into the city, including men they fear could become “sleeping cells” of militants.

Kamil Salayi, mayor of Kirkuk's central district, said that 25,000 Arab refugees had arrived since insurgents led by the extremist Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began a lightning advance a fortnight ago, conquering cities and closing in on Baghdad, where they aim to topple the Shiite-led government.

“Last week, on Tuesday and Wednesday alone, 400 Arab families moved into the center of Kirkuk, and more people are coming every day,” said Salayi, adding that hordes of refugees had come from the fallen city of Mosul, while others were moving in from Kirkuk’s outskirts.

After insurgents seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, waves of frightened residents fled for the safety of the northern autonomous Kurdistan Region, the only peaceful and prospering portion of Iraq.

But Kurdish authorities did not allow all to enter, setting up temporary camps near checkpoints, as the UN office in Kirkuk evaluates whether to set up proper camps, Salayi said.

Mosul, Tikrit and other cities and towns have fallen to the insurgents following the collapse and withdrawal of Iraqi army forces from large parts of the country.

The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), meanwhile, moved its Peshmerga forces into large swaths of Kurdish-populated territories that are outside its official borders but were abandoned by Iraqi soldiers. That includes the city of Kirkuk.

The Kurds see Kirkuk as the capital of a future state, but Iraq’s majority Shiites also lay claim to the oil-rich prize. Whether Kirkuk would opt to become part of Kurdistan or the central government was supposed to be decided in a 2007 referendum that has yet to take place.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Kurdistan capital of Erbil on Tuesday to try and urge the Kurds to not quit the political process in Baghdad and opt for independence, now that they have Kirkuk. He was to leave for NATO meetings in Brussels, after several hours in Erbil.

Salayi said that the arrival of Arab families would impact the future of the multi-ethnic city.

“We have met the refugees and some of them were single young men,” he said. “When we asked them about the whereabouts of their families, they told us that they went to Baghdad. Many people might have come in that way.”

An official in Kirkuk told Rudaw, “Some families are entering the city without passing through the checkpoints.”

Kirkuk’s demography was transformed by intense relocation campaigns under Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime, when many Kurds and Turkmen were moved out to other parts of the country and replaced by Arabs who were brought in.  

Authorities say that Kirkuk’s Arab population swelled after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam, and again during the height of Iraq’s sectarian conflict in 2006-2007.

Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom the insurgents have vowed to oust, had previously stated that any family living in Kirkuk for 10 years can claim residence. But Kurdish officials had said that could not be.

“These refugees are like time bombs threatening the future of the city,” said an official in Kirkuk, speaking to Rudaw on condition of anonymity.

He claimed that the insurgents had sleeping cells inside Mosul, which had helped the rebels take over almost without a fight.

“There is no guarantee that these refugees in Kirkuk will not become sleeping cells,” he said. “We have very limited information about these individuals.”


Data pager
Page size:
KIM | 24/6/2014
Increase the size of police, intelligence and Peshmargs in Kirkuk. CItizens cooperation is necessary just like Hawler and Sulaimani. Disarm them.
simber | 24/6/2014
The next terror attack in Hawler will be by these young arab men. who knows, maybe they are recruited by ISIS... get them out of kirkuk, or set up some proper camps with security 400+km away from krg borders..
Guest | 24/6/2014
For safety reasons relocate all sunnis that arrived in the last 6 months to outside Kirkuk. Disarm the Kirkuk poppulation except Kurdish Turkoman & Shia
Flaminco | 24/6/2014
What the hell are the Kurdish authorities doing letting in 1 million mostly Arab people inside Kurdistan? they want the war to spread inside Kurdistan? because that's what they'll get! Gather all their identity cards that shows where they're born, put every one that is not born in Kerkuk or other Kurdish cities in closed refugee camps, they can get permition to move back where they came from any time but no entry into Kurdish cities
TheWiseOne | 24/6/2014
Are serious why are they letting this people in ? Especially single Arab men who claim their families left for Baghdad? If that's the case why didn't they leave with their families for Baghdad? This is a very dangerous development and we could lose Kirkuk. They need to open a refugee camp outside of Kirkuk and not let these Arabs in.

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Bart 56 | 11/19/2017 4:23:43 AM
Is Erdogen a sectarian, racist dictator?
Christian refugees in Lebanon want to return to Kurdistan
| 16/11/2017 | (1)
duroi | 11/13/2017 4:41:34 PM
It is heart breaking to lose your family and friends. Most of the 500+ victims were across the border in Iran and the city worst hit is SarPol Zahab...
IranMan | 11/19/2017 12:55:52 AM
Is it me, or others have also notice there is not ONE piece of "news" on telling us what the KRG administration, with its super rich...
Earthquake hits near Halabja, felt from Kurdistan to Kuwait, fatalities reported
| 12/11/2017 | (15)
Carlo | 11/18/2017 9:29:30 PM
US allies hates each other
Love Kurdistan | 11/18/2017 9:59:20 PM
Mr PM Barzani, make no more mistake. DO NOT COUNT ON AMERICANS ANYMORE. I would be considering of forming alliance with others as well. Be a smart...
Tillerson to PM Barzani: US encourages Baghdad to start serious talks with Erbil
| 18 hours ago | (3)
Stewee Guy
Stewee Guy | 11/18/2017 8:39:29 PM
Sad to see a full row of Kurdish women wearing ISIS hijabs.
Muraz Adzhoev | 11/18/2017 9:06:21 PM
The “transitional government” must be established in order to provide overwhelming unity only for the achievement of the main goal by implementation...
Kurdish Islamic party calls for establishment of transitional government
| 17 hours ago | (2)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Mysterious withdrawal of Hashd forces from Zummar, Rabia region 2 hours ago |

Mysterious withdrawal of Hashd forces from Zummar, Rabia region

No agreement between Erbil and Baghdad for the more
Syrians haunted by winter cold, lack of medicine at Ain Issa camp 4 hours ago |

Syrians haunted by winter cold, lack of medicine at Ain Issa camp

'We need pillows. We need winter clothes for our more
0.25 seconds