Middle East

Kurds and Turkmen clash in north Iraq

Kurdish peshmerga forces have stepped in to seize several towns, including Kirkuk, after the central government's forces collapsed in the face of the militant's assault. REUTERS/Stringer

TIKRIT, Iraq: Clashes between Kurdish and Shiite Turkmen fighters in an Iraqi town late Monday cut the main road from Baghdad to the north for the second day in a row and threatened to undermine a cease-fire agreement reached by military leaders a day earlier.

The violence in Tuz Khurmatu, 175 kilometers north of the capital, is the latest and most severe flare-up of tensions that have been brewing since Daesh (ISIS) militants were driven back from the town in 2014.

Shiite paramilitary leaders and Kurdish peshmerga commanders had brokered a truce Sunday to end fighting that killed at least 12 people on both sides, but it broke down before sunset Monday.

Police sources in the town said shops were closed and the streets deserted. No casualties were reported at area hospitals, likely because the roads were considered too dangerous for travel. Peshmerga tanks shelled Shiite Turkmen districts, while Shiite fighters launched mortar fire and sniped at predominately Kurdish areas, the police said. Five buildings in Shiite areas had been burned.

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter in Tuz Khurmato told Reuters his forces had been instructed to observe the cease-fire, but that armed Kurdish residents of the town were attacking Shiite Turkmen positions.

In other developments, the U.N.’s deputy high commissioner for human rights, Kate Gilmore, said Iraq was being run by a failed government and warned foreign powers not to be “complicit” in its neglect of the plight of normal Iraqis. Gilmore said both Baghdad and its international supporters were too focused on defeating Daesh and had no strategy for mending the country after that.

“It is beholden on the international community, which rightly focuses on the military action, to have ... comparable investment in nonmilitary relief,” Gilmore said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an overhaul of the government in February, but disputes and protests have slowed progress.

The war with Daesh has created more than 3.4 million internally displaced people, many living in camps without access to medical care, water and clothes, as foreign money disappears into the pockets of local officials, Gilmore said. “In terms of people caught in IDP camps, the international community is failing. The humanitarian budget ... in Iraq is grossly underfunded and people with nothing are paying the cost of that.”

The United Nations estimates the cost of dealing with Iraq’s humanitarian crisis at $4.5 billion. It appealed in January for $861 million to help the government cover its $1.56 billion plan to assist 10 million people in need in 2016.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 26, 2016, on page 8.

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