PMF, KRG deny formation of Kurdish regiment within Hashid al-Shaabi in Kirkuk

Members of Kurdish Regiment of Hashid al-Shaabi are pictured during a ceremony in Dibis, northwest of Kirkuk, December 12, 2020.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) denied the formation of a Kurdish regiment within Hashid al-Shaabi in Kirkuk.

The formation of a regiment including Kurdish residents was announced in a ceremony in which a number of Kurdish and Arab tribal leaders attended in the village of Chakhmakha in Dibis district, northwest of Kirkuk.

“We strongly deny the news circulating about the allegations of forming a Kurdish regiment in Kirkuk governorate,” the PMF, also known as Hashid al-Shaabi, said in a statement on Sunday.

“We stress that the Popular Mobilization Forces are present in Kirkuk to protect all citizens without discrimination,” it added.

Separately, the KRG Ministry of Interior said the PMF had assured the Kurdistan Region that it was not seeking to form regiments consisting of Kurds living in the disputed areas.

“In answering our follow-up, Hashid al-Shaabi reiterates that no [PMF] forces will be formed from the Kurdistanis in the areas outside the Kurdistan Region administration,” the ministry said in a statement.

Hashid al-Shaabi also said it would to “dismantle such a force if any steps had been taken to form one”, the ministry’s statement read.

On Sunday, supervisor of the Kurdish regiment Adham Jumaa said the members of the group were all Kurds and that its duty was to protect the villages in Dibis district.

The federal government retook control of the disputed areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil from the Kurdish forces in October 2017 in the wake of the independence referendum. Since then, security has been run by the Iraqi forces and Hashid al-Shaabi.

Iraqi and Kurdish officials say Islamic State (ISIS) remnants have benefited from the vacuum between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk.

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