Iraq has started deploying forces in the country’s northwestern Sinjar region after Turkey threatened to enter the area to attack Kurdish militants.
Iraqi police forces, fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, and some army soldiers arrived in Sinjar on Friday.
The mayor of Sinjar, Fahd Hamed Omar, told the Associated Press that forces from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group had abandoned the area.
“Of course, now Iraqi forces are being deployed all around the district of Sinjar and inside Sinjar,” he said.
The Sanjar mayor noted that the deployment would start from the administrative border of Sinjar all the way up to the Syrian border.
“All the checkpoints along the way are under the supervision of the Iraqi security forces, and there is coordination between the (Iraqi) Army and Hashd al-Sha’abi. The forces of the PKK have been removed from Sinjar and there is not a single member of them here,” Omar pointed out.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would do what was necessary to clear Iraq’s Sinjar of the PKK, adding, “We may go there suddenly one night too.”
In a phone conversation on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim that Baghdad would not allow cross-border attacks on Turkey days after Erdogan announced the start of a military campaign against the PKK in northern Iraq.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has denied that any foreign forces had crossed the border into Iraq and said the situation in Sinjar was under the control of Iraqi security forces.
Turkey has banned the PKK as a terrorist organization. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984. The three-decade conflict has left more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, dead.
The PKK gained a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 after coming to the aid of the Izadi minority community, who were targeted by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
The Sinjar operations came after the Turkish military said it had established full control over Syria’s northwestern Afrin region following more than two months of battle with the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as the Syrian branch of the PKK.
A shaky ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK that had stood since 2013 was declared null and void by the militants in 2015 in the wake of a large-scale Turkish military campaign against the group.