September 26, 2001; Heres a fascinating report out of Turkey. Turkish sources report that a group of Islamist fighters that may have been trained by Afghanis (Islamist rebels) backed by Afghanistans Taliban fought a battle in northern Iraq with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Iraqi Kurd guerrilla group. A subsequent report (from AFP) identified the group as the Jund al-Islam (JAI), which is a splinter faction of the Islamic Party of Kurdistan. The JAI group attacked the Kurd village of Heli Hama on September 23. The report said JAI deploys around 250 fighters in northern Iraq and that JAI has ties to Osama Bin Ladens Al Qaeda (the Base) terrorist network. Dont put it past either Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein to cooperate in northern Iraq against the Kurds. This could be an example of rent paying on Bin Ladens part, to payback Saddam for providing Al Qaeda with a safe haven.
Iraqi Kurd leader Masud Barzani (Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP) issued a statement supporting Saddam Husseins call for a peace dialogue to reach a peaceful settlement with the Kurds in northern Iraq. Saddams call for peace came about two weeks after he threatened to invade the Kurdish enclave. Basically, the KDP and its rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK, run by Jala Talabani) control three Iraqi provinces, Irbil (or Arbil), Suleimaniyeh, and Dahuk. (The KDP controls the areas along the Turkish border, the PUK controls the Iranian border.) In his statement Barzani said he does not intend to pursue an independent Kurdish state but wants a federation within a democratic Iraq in which Kurds have their rights. We read this as tactical political maneuvering by the Kurds, prior to US (and/or NATO) military action against Iraq.