About 1300 Peshmerga fighters have been deployed into contested areas of Diyala province, where they will operate in the heavily Kurdish areas of Jalawla, Saidiya, Qara Tappa, and Mandali. Due to increased security concerns, the Kurdish parliament recently voted to redeploy the soldiers even though Diyala is not one of the three provinces that belong to Iraqi Kurdistan. The Peshmerga, so far, have been able to work peacefully alongside Iraqi army troops.
The Peshmerga had been in control of security three years ago but were forced out during a power play with the Iraqi government but, with the apparent blessing of Baghdad this time, the number of fighters is expected to rise to 2400 soon. Traditionally, the Peshmerga and Iraqi army have been at odds with each other if not outright fighting. Coincidentally, U.S. troops began their scheduled drawdown at bases closer to Baquba.
Meanwhile, at least 43 Iraqis were killed and eight were wounded across the country. The lion’s share of fatalities came from a mass grave:
A mass grave containing 40 victims was discovered near Dujail. Police said the victims were mostly taxi drivers killed over the last two years, but another source called them "passengers." Three suspects were arrested, but no connection to known terrorist groups was found.
While Dujail is in Salah ad-Din province, a security source down south in Babel province recently said that about 45 taxi drivers had gone missing in the last few months. It is unknown if events in the two provinces are related, but they both underscore the dangers involved in driving taxis.
In Shirqat, a bomb wounded a policeman.
A bomb blast in Baquba left no casualties.
Several demonstrations took place across Iraq:
Scuffles broke out in Baghdad‘s Tahrir Square, but the number of wounded was not reported. A funeral procession for slain journalist Hadi al-Mehdi was prevented from reaching the square. Thousands of other demonstrators, however, were allowed in.
Police in Abu Ghraib used batons to herd demonstrators, but no injuries were reported.
Police said a vehicle ban is in place in Rutba in order to prevent violence to demonstrations.
Hundreds marched in Falluja.
Hilla residents demonstrated for improved services and early elections.
Protestors in Karbala also demanded better services.
Extra security was in place to prevent violence during demonstrations in Kut.
Police were out in force to prevent rioting in Diwaniya.
Also, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) kidnapped eight workers in Turkey but later released four of them. Yesterday, four militiamen were kidnapped.