Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) faced a serious challenge last month, when a terrorist attack on 29 September which targeted the headquarters of the general security forces in Irbil and the nearby Ministry of Interior resulted in over 60 injuries and fatalities. The al-Qa’ida affiliate The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – a key participant in Syria’s civil war – claimed responsibility for the attack, the first of its kind in Irbil in six years. ISIL said was in response to the threats announced by KRG President Masoud Barzani “and his support for the Baghdad Government, as well as his support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting Jihadists in Syria.”

The political balance of power in the KRG also shifted in September when the opposition group Goran (Change) came second in regional parliamentary elections ahead of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two Kurdish ruling parties. Goran, led by Newshirwan Mustafa, focused its campaign on corruption and nepotism in the KRG and won 24 seats, relegating the PUK to third place with 18 seats. Mr Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) remains the largest parliamentary block with 38 seats. The 21 September elections, the first in which the KDP and the PUK contested individual seats in the 111-seat Kurdistan parliament, took place in the absence of the ailing leader of the PUK, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. (CONTINUED - 693 WORDS)