Middle East

Iraqi Kurdish opposition parties report attacks on offices

Protesters outside the Kurdistan Parliament building in Irbil, Iraq (29 October 2017) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters angered by comments made by a Gorran MP stormed the parliament building

There have been reports of violence in Iraq's Kurdistan Region against parties opposed to the outgoing president.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Movement for Change (Gorran) said offices in Dohuk province were looted or burnt overnight.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the UN have appealed for calm.

Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), announced that he was stepping down as regional president on Sunday.

Mr Barzani, 71, said he did not want his term to be extended beyond Wednesday after a controversial referendum on Kurdish independence that he organised last month sparked a crisis with the government in Baghdad and neighbouring states.

Mr Abadi insisted that the vote was unconstitutional and ordered pro-government forces to retake disputed areas held by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters since 2014, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, sparking clashes that left dozens dead.

The losses were a major blow to the Kurds' aspirations for their own state and prompted Mr Barzani to declare on Sunday that he wanted his presidential powers to be distributed among the region's prime minister, parliament and judiciary.

Mr Barzani also accused leaders of the PUK, whose founder Jalal Talabani died days after the referendum, of being guilty of "high treason on 16 October".

The PUK has denied KDP claims that it struck a deal with Baghdad to withdraw Peshmerga under its command from Kirkuk that day without putting up a fight.

As members of the parliament debated whether to approve Mr Barzani's request, men armed with sticks stormed the building in Irbil where they were meeting.

The men - reportedly KDP supporters angered by comments made earlier that day by Gorran MP Rabun Maroof about the president and the Peshmerga - attacked local journalists and trapped lawmakers inside until local police, known as the Asayesh, fired into the air to disperse them.

Gorran and the PUK also reported that their offices in the town of Zakho - a KDP stronghold in north-western Dohuk province - were burned down.

Later, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) called on the Asayesh to prevent further violence.

Mr Abadi said on Monday the central government was closely monitoring the "attempts to create chaos and disorder" in Irbil and Dohuk. He called for "adhering to the law and for calm".

The UN meanwhile called on security forces to "prevent any plot against the stability of the Kurdistan Region" and condemned the killing of a Kurdish video journalist by unidentified assailants in Kirkuk province overnight.

Arkan Sharif, a 54 year old who worked for Kurdistan TV, was stabbed to death by four men who broke into his home in the Daquq area south of Kirkuk city, security sources told AFP news agency. His family were locked up in another room.

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