Jan 10, 2019 19:08 UTC
  • Iraqi special forces deployed in Kirkuk after Kurdish flag raising triggered tensions

Iraqi Special Operations Forces have been deployed in the Arab country’s Kirkuk after the flag of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was raised over a political party headquarters, which revived tensions more than a year after Baghdad seized the disputed northern city from the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

The stationing of troops on Thursday came two days after supporters of President Barham Saleh's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) held a rally in the city, waved KRG flags and hoisted one of them over the party’s headquarters.

The demonstration was dispersed by Iraqi security forces as Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi spoke by telephone with President Saleh, who was on a visit to Qatar, complaining that flying the KRG flag above the party headquarters in Kirkuk was “a violation of the constitution.”

Kirkuk Governor Saeed al Jabouri on Wednesday reportedly called on Baghdad to send troops to the city in order to defuse the emerging tension. A day earlier, he had called for calm after reports of clashes between police and pro-PUK demonstrators.

Jabouri had reportedly urged local residents to refrain from any act that could further aggravate tensions. “We have directed the security forces to address the situation with a view to safeguarding the city’s security and stability,” he was quoted as saying.

Jabouri, however, requested that the Iraqi government send military reinforcements to Kirkuk “to thwart those who would attempt to undermine security.”

Meanwhile, Iraq’s counter-terrorism chief gave the PUK until noon on Friday to lower the red, white, green and yellow flag of the semi-autonomous region.