Several people were seriously wounded in Tuz Khurmatu, a small town near Kirkuk, Iraq this week when mortars were dropped on a neighborhood there. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) office head in Tuz Khurmatu, Mala Karim Shkur, told local media that, “Earlier this morning, some mortar shells were fired at the Askari neighborhood from an unknown location.” Shkur stated that the shells hit near the local market and, “According to our information, two people were wounded.”
Shkur blamed the Turkmen Hashd residing in Tuz Khurmatu for the mortar strike, simultaneously the Shiite Turkmen has blamed the various Kurdish parties for the action. The Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite Iraqi paramilitary forces were given the order to withdraw from what the Iraqi government declared to be “liberated” territories after multiple Sunni politicians raised concerns over a Shiite occupation. PUK head Shkur said that, “Now that there is an attempt to repel the Turkmen Hashd from Tuz Khurmatu, they are carrying out such acts in order to legitimize that they still do exist.” Tuz Khurmatu as a whole is still recovering from the chaos that ensued last October when the Kirkuk region changed hands from Kurdish to Iraqi control. Peshmerga military forces withdrew, and Kurdish residents became displaced in some instances.
The Hashd al-Shaabi forces, also known as the PMU (Popular Mobilization Units), have been surrounded by controversy and are primarily composed of former Shiite militia members, extremists in their own right. Last week it was reported that the PMU were being pulled out of the Ninevah province. However, this was later denied by the PMU’s head of force deployments Jawad Kadhim. He claimed that the forces there were only restructuring. The Hashd al-Shaabi were formed by Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2014 to combat the Islamic State, and while they have been state-sponsored as a whole, they have also received a great deal of support from Iranian sources. The entirely volunteer made group was officially inducted into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in November 2016.