Iraq takes control of Sinjar after Kurdish army withdraws

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Oct. 17, 2017 at 7:13 AM
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Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Peshmerga forces gave up the Kurdish town of Sinjar to a pro-Iraqi paramilitary group and the Iraqi army, Baghdad's army said Tuesday.

Sinjar is composed of Yazidi Kurds, a non-Muslim Kurdish speaking minority. Following a 2014 massacre in Sinjar by Islamic State fighters, many Yazidis volunteered to fight Islamic State militants by joining either Kurdish forces or those backed by the Iraqi government.

The Islamic State was driven out of Sinjar two years ago.

"The Iraqi army and Popular Mobilization Forces entered the town of Sinjar after the Peshmerga withdrew without a fight," the PMF, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-Iraqi militias, said in a statement.

The confrontation-free handover came Tuesday after Yazidis of the Peshmerga agreed with Yazidis in the pro-government PMF to avoid a clash, officials said.

The Iraqi army has turned its attention to driving back the Kurdish military forces after the Kurdistan region voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 25 in a referendum for independence. The two sides are former allies against the Islamic State.

The Iraqi army, backed by the PMF, occupied government buildings and nearby oil fields on Monday in the larger city of Kirkuk after the Peshmerga pulled out.

Sinjar and Kirkuk are a part of an historically Kurdish part of Iraq which the Kurds seek to incorporate into their autonomous region.

Peshmerga forces also began a withdrawal in adjacent Makhmur district.

"Kurdish forces are moving their heavy equipment toward Erbil," Kurdistan's capital, a Kurdish officer, Capt. Taher Saadullah al-Duski told Turkey's Anadolu Agency. The withdrawal came prior to the arrival of Iraqi or pro-Iraqi forces.

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