Sulaimaniyah (AsiaNews) – Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has sent 1,000 peshmerga troops to its border with Iran to stop smuggling of men and weapons flowing in to support Islamist groups like Ansar al-Islam (supporters of Islam).
Major General Jabbar Yawir said an Ansar-allied group calling itself the "Kurdistan Brigades of Al-Qaeda" has repeatedly attacked Iraqi Kurdish forces in the region around the border town of Penjwin.
“The forces sent shall be in two brigades,” the general said. “Some will reinforce army units and border checkpoints and some will mount patrols in the region to ambush the enemy.”
The peshmerga are former Kurdish separatist guerrillas that have been incorporated into the Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces in the four years since a US-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Ansar al-Islam is one of the most radical Islamist group in the country and has close ties to the Talibans and al-Qaeda.
Northern Iraq is relatively peaceful compared to the rest of the country, where Sunni and Shiite factions have been fighting an undeclared war fuelled from the outside.
However, recent incidents have raised fears that the security situation in Kurdistan might also deteriorate. Because of its relative calm the area had become a refuge for many people displaced from elsewhere, especially Christians fleeing persecution in Baghdad and Mosul.
On Wednesday, a powerful truck bomb exploded in front of the Kurdish interior ministry in Arbil, killing at least 14 people and injuring another 87. That attack was claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq", which includes the al-Qaeda in Iraq organisation as well as six other smaller affiliated groups.
US commanders in Iraq accuse Iran of stoking the fire in Iraq by funding armed Sunni and Shia groups just to keep tensions high and spread chaos.