Iraqi security sources reported clashes erupting between Kurdish and Shi’ite Turkmen paramilitary forces late on Saturday in northern Iraq, killing at least two fighters and cutting a strategic road between Baghdad and the oil city of Kirkuk.
Lately, the city of Tuz Khurmatu, about 175 km (110 miles) north of the capital, has been witnessing a near monthly violence between the armed groups, uncomfortable allies against ISIS since pushing the jihadist militants out of towns and villages in the area in 2014.
The latest aggresion broke out on Saturday just before midnight after a small explosion near the local headquarters of two rival political parties sparked clash between the communities in neighborhoods across the district, according to security sources.
The violence continued on Sunday morning as fighters launched mortars into densely populated areas and fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the opposing positions.
Sources said that the fighting killed at least one fighter from each side and injured two civilians, including a child. The death toll was expected to rise since snipers were preventing people from transporting casualties to hospital.
The tensions risk further fragmenting Iraq, a major OPEC oil exporter, as it struggles to contain the ISIS terrorist organization, the biggest security threat since a U.S.-led invasion toppled autocrat Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Efforts to drive back the ultra-hardline jihadists have been complicated by sectarian and ethnic rivalries, including a contest for territory which the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad claims, but the Kurds want as part of their autonomous region in the north of the country.
High-level delegations from both sides arrived in Tuz Khurmatu on Sunday to try to work out the latest dispute as military reinforcements were said to be gathering outside the district.