Iraqi army forces capture Islamic State cell operating in Kirkuk
The Iraqi military announced that its forces arrested a cell of Islamic State (IS) militants following raids in multiple different locations in the disputed province of Kirkuk.
“Field detachments of the Directorate General of Intelligence and Security, in coordination with the 1st Special Forces Regiment, Operations Department, managed to arrest a group belonging to terrorist gangs in Kirkuk Province,” read a statement released on Wednesday.
It also claimed that warrants for the arrests were issued according to Iraq’s Article 4 terrorism statute. Though the provision is commonly referenced by Iraqi security forces and officials as the legal framework by which an arrest was made, it deals exclusively with punishments to be handed down by courts, not investigative or arrest procedures.
Kirkuk’s security was under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces until they were pushed from several areas disputed by Baghdad and Erbil by Iraqi forces and Iran-backed militias in an attack following the Kurdistan Region’s September 2017 independence referendum. After this, IS activity in these areas increased.
On Tuesday evening, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) raised the Kurdistan flag on its office in Kirkuk for the first time since the post-referendum military takeover.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi called on the PUK to remove it the following day, characterizing the flag’s display as “a violation of the Iraqi Constitution.”
Though it is possible that Abdul-Mahdi was referring to some Iraqi law or regulation, the only constitutional provision that pertains to flags is Article 12, which contains no such specific restriction. It states only that, “The flag, national anthem, and emblem of Iraq shall be regulated by law in a way that symbolizes the components of the Iraqi people.”