Kurds digging moat along borders with Syria to stop ‘infiltrators’

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By Fareed Hassan

Azzaman, April 23, 2014

The Kurdish regional government is digging a moat along its borders with Syria to stop infiltration by armed groups, the Kurdish region’s prime minister said.

Nejervan Barzani said the ditch was necessary to protect the region from possible attacks by car and suicide bombings.

But the digging is drawing criticism and demonstrations by hundreds of Kurds, who oppose the moat.

Digging moats is the measure the Kurdish authorities have used to guard their major cities and towns from bombing attacks and are said to have helped the region attain relative quiet in comparison with the rest of the country.

The Kurdish region comprises three provinces in northern Iraq – Dahouk, Sulaimaniya and Arbil. Dahouk borders both Syria and Turkey. The region has long borders with Iran, too.

Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds have fled to the region and they are currently housed in special camps.

Barzani urged Kurds not to protest the construction of the moat, saying it was essential to stop possible attacks and infiltration by militant and Jihadist groups in Syria.

The protesters are mainly from border villages who rely on cross-border trade for their livelihood.

They fear the moat will put an end to the brisk exchange of illegal trade.

It is not clear whether the Kurds were coordinating with Baghdad in digging the moat on their stretch of border with Syria.

Syria has a long border with Iraq and most of the Iraqi side of it is under the control of Baghdad government.

Both the Kurds and the government in Baghdad have a stake in the fighting in Syria.

Baghdad does not hide its sympathy with the government of President Bashar al-Assad and his three-year war with his opponents, among them militant and Jihadist organizations.

The Kurds support Syrian Kurdish rebels who are also engaged in fighting with militant and Jihadist groups in their own areas.

Barzani’s regional government is reported to be aiding Syrian Kurdish rebels to protect their areas from attacks by Jihadist groups.