Reports of shots being fired in Tuz Khormato late Friday were correct. Overnight clashes left three Shi’ite militiamen and two Peshmerga wounded. Mortars and grenades were used during the battle, which apparently involved Peshmerga troops loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Shi’ite militias composed of local Turkmen. Separately, a bomb near a Turkmen mosque left two dead and three wounded.
Tuz Khormato has seen considerable violence since Peshmerga forces liberated the town from the Islamic State militants in 2014. The immediate arrival of Shi’ite militiamen back then increased tensions between Turkmen and Kurdish residents, and forced many families to move into single ethnicity neighborhoods or leave town altogether. Fresh displacements were reported in the last few hours.
A deadline allegedly imposed by Baghdad on Kurdish forces has passed. The Peshmerga were ordered by the Iraqi government to return to their June 2014 positions by 23:00 G.M.T. on Saturday, October 14. And earlier deadline to withdraw from the Maktab Khalid junction was also ignored.
The orders and the thousands of heavily armed troops and militiamen massing near Kirkuk contradict Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s recent promise that the Kurdish forces will not be attacked. Baghdad denies that any deadlines was set, but now there are rumors that the one ordering a return to the 2014 borders may have been extended another day.
Kirkuk is claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, and the city has a large number of Kurds living there. During the initial Islamic State onslaught, Iraqi forces abandoned their posts, but Kurdish Peshmerga forces quickly recovered the city and nearby oil fields.
Shwan Shamerani, commander of the Peshmerga second brigade in Kirkuk, accused Baghdad of allowing Iranian Army and Revolutionary Guards to station themselves among Iraqi forces and Shi’ite militiamen in the area.
Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr expressed his opposition to the replacement of Iraqi President Fuad Masum with Vice President Nouri al-Maliki. Lawmakers are trying to remove Masum, a Kurd, from his post in retaliation for the independence referendum. Besides being a political rival to Sadr, Maliki is a controversial former prime minister. He is blamed by many, for the problems that led to the Islamic State invasion.
Including casualties from Tuz Khormato, at least 50 people were killed and 27 were wounded:
A bomb killed a shepherd in Bashiqa.
Five people were wounded in a bombing in Husseiniyat al-Rashidiya.
An airstrike killed 10 militants in Rawah.
In Qayara, four militants were killed.
Three suicide bombers were killed in the town of Baghdadi.
In Hadhar, three militants were killed.
Two militants were killed in Tal al-Thab.
Two more were killed in Jurf al-Sakhar (Jurf al-Nasr).
Security forces shot dead a militant near Ramadi.