IRBIL, Iraq: The autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is digging a trench along its border with Syria to prevent the infiltration of militants and smuggling from the war-racked country, officials say. “The trench is designed to prevent the infiltration of members of terrorist groups and stop smugglers,” Halkurd Mullah Ali, the spokesman for the Kurdish region’s peshmerga Security Ministry, told AFP.
Ali claimed that the smugglers “began operating in these areas because the Syrian authorities lost control of them, and these areas became insecure.”
The trench is 17 kilometers long, 2 meters deep and 3 meters wide, and is “part of an Iraqi [federal] government strategy” to protect the country’s 600 kilometer border with Syria.
“We arrested terrorists and smugglers trying to infiltrate into Kurdistan,” peshmerga Brig. Gen. Hashem Yeti said, adding that there were “requests from the people of the border areas to prevent the infiltration operations, which represent a threat to them.”
But the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a powerful Syrian Kurdish political organization, condemned the building of the trench as an attempt to blockade the country’s Kurds, and closed the border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan in protest at the move.
Hundreds of people have been waiting to cross since the border was closed Saturday.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 16, 2014, on page 8.