An Iraqi soldier was killed and two others were injured in clashes Monday with Yazidi fighters in the northern region of Sinjar, an army officer and an MP said.
The heartland of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, Sinjar is the site of frequent confrontations between security forces and local fighters affiliated with Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The two sides traded accusations of having ignited the latest fighting, which broke out Sunday.
Sherwan al-Douberdani, a provincial deputy, said a soldier was killed, while a senior army official said two other soldiers were injured.
The clashes also cost the lives of a dozen Yazidi fighters, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Iraqi security forces in a statement accused the Yazidi fighters of setting up roadblocks and preventing civilians from passing through the village of Snuny north of Sinjar.
Soldiers attempted to open the roads Monday morning but came under “heavy fire,” the statement said, pointing to the presence of “snipers on the rooftops” and mine-riddled roads.
The army responded and restored order there, the statement added.
The Iraqi military used heavy artillery in the clashes, according to ANF, a news agency close to the separatists.
Douberdani said the Yazidis were refusing demands to pull out of Sinjar and for “the withdrawal of foreign agents”, a reference to the PKK.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi enslaved for months by Islamic State group jihadists who brutalised her community in 2014, called for an end to the violence.
“After years of displacement, recent returnees are once again forced to flee their homes due to current armed clashes in Sinjar. I call on the international community to intervene & work with the Iraqi government to resolve the region’s ongoing security issues & protect civilians,” she tweeted.
The Sinjar region is also a frequent target of Turkish air strikes on rear bases of the PKK. Last August, eight people were killed in a Turkish strike on a Sinjar clinic that was treating a PKK member.
To the northeast of Sinjar, Ankara last month launched a fresh military offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan against the PKK.
The United Nations mission in Iraq tweeted to condemn the latest violence, saying it was “deeply concerned about clashes in Sinjar, with grave consequences for civilians.
“Sinjaris’ safety and security should be front and center. They’ve suffered enormously in the past and deserve peace under state authority,” it added.