Kurdish parties opposed to Barzani report attacks on offices overnight

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Iraqi Kurdish political parties opposed to regional leader Masoud Barzani reported attacks on their offices in several cities overnight, hours after Barzani announced his resignation, brought low by a failed push for independence.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Movement for Change and Gorran said in separate statements several of their offices in the Duhok region, north of the Kurdish capital Erbil, were looted or burnt overnight. No casualties were reported.

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq said it had ordered the local police forces, known as Asayish, to stop the attacks.

Barzani, 71, said on Sunday he would give up his position as president on Nov. 1 after an independence referendum he championed in northern Iraq backfired and triggered military and economic retaliation by the Iraqi government.

People gather at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) building after it was burnt overnight, in the town of Zakho. (Reuters)
People gather at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) building after it was burnt overnight, in the town of Zakho. (Reuters)

The veteran guerrilla leader has run Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region since 2005, presiding with a firm hand as the region prospered while the rest of Iraq struggled in civil war. But he but has been brought low in recent weeks by his decision to push the independence vote, and his downfall has exposed deep fractures among the Kurds.

Armed protesters supporting Barzani stormed parliament as it met on Sunday to approve his resignation. Opposition lawmakers who had been barricaded inside managed to leave later, according to their parties.

The PUK, which has been the main rival of Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) for decades, supported his decision to hold the independence referendum, but half-heartedly. The reformist Gorran party opposed the vote, arguing that the timing was poor.

In a televised speech announcing his plan to step down, Barzani said followers of his longterm rival, PUK founder Jalal Talabani who died in early October, had been guilty of “high treason” for handing over the oil city of Kirkuk to Iraqi forces without a fight two weeks ago.

Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga had held Kirkuk, one of Iraq’s main oil centres, since 2014 when they seized it after government troops fled in the face of an advance by ISIS.

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