Shia militia 'guarding' Iraq's Kirkuk after bloody IS counter-attack

Shia militia 'guarding' Iraq's Kirkuk after bloody IS counter-attack
The controversial pro-Baghdad paramilitary force has entered the northern Iraqi city to protect civilians, it says, after an Islamic State sleeper cell launched a surprise attack earlier this month
2 min read
31 October, 2016
Hashd al-Shaabi militias will protect Kirkuk, say local officials [Anadolu]

Shia militiamen are "guarding" Iraq's Kirkuk following a major Islamic State counter-attack which left scores of people dead.

More than 200 members of Baghdad's pro-government paramilitary are protecting neighbourhoods of the Kurdistan city following the deadly IS bombings on October 20.

The Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Units, were deployed to protect Turkmen people in the area, according to Kurdistan24.

"Their role is to guard Kirkuk," Najat Hussein, a member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk said.

"They have 100 percent coordination with the head of security commission in Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim, who is also the governor of the province," he added.

Around 250 people were wounded and 99 killed when more than 70 IS militants stormed Kirkuk earlier this month, occupying government buildings and carrying out suicide attacks.

The surprise offensive came days after Iraqi forces began a long-awaited advance on IS stronghold Mosul.

The militia forces entered the city on agreement with Kirkuk's administration. It is not known how long they would stay in the area.

Some residents are concerned the militiamen, who are backed by Iran, could exploit the fragile security situation in order to establish a foothold in Kirkuk, where more than half the population is Kurdish.

"Our duty is to protect Kirkuk. When the security of those areas is obtained, they will leave and go to other places where they are needed," Karim said.