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Video: Iraqi forces seize Kurdish Peshmerga positions near Kirkuk

Watch now: Tank movements and the Kurdish flag defaced in a captured Peshmerga position [TNA]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2017

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Exclusive: The New Arab has obtained footage showing Iraqi forces having taken over Kurdish Peshmerga positions in al-Bashir and Taza, just south of Kirkuk's giant oil fields.
The New Arab has obtained footage showing Iraqi forces having taken over Kurdish Peshmerga positions in al-Bashir and Taza, just 27km south of Kirkuk's giant oil field at Bai Hassan.

The video comes amid conflicting reports that the Iraqi army and allied Popular Mobilisation Force militias have launched an operation to capture the disputed city of Kirkuk, currently controlled by Peshmerga.

News agencies quoted Iraqi generals as confirming the operation, but Iraq's Joint Command has denied the news, amid widespread Kurdish mobilisation in the city.
An Iraqi military official denied that troop movements around Kirkuk were part of an all-out assault on the Peshmerga.

But speaking to The New Arab on condition of anonymity, he said Iraqi forces had seized several former Peshmerga positions without a fight, after the Kurdish forces withdrew "voluntarily" towards Kirkuk's city limits.

"The buffer zone between the two sides is less than 2km wide now," he added.

An Iraqi army Humvee stationed at a former Kurdish Peshmerga position

Iraq's interior minister, Qassem al-Araji, also denied to The New Arab denied any military operations in Kirkuk, saying the troop movements were part of a "re-deployment of federal forces... in accordance to the lines that stood on 9 June 2014" - before the Iraqi army abandoned the area as the Islamic State group swept through northern Iraq. Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk before IS reached the area, and have since held the province.

However, video footage obtained by The New Arab showed an armoured battalion equipped with T-72 tanks appearing to mobilise on the outskirts of Kirkuk.

Azad Ali, a spokesman for the Peshmerga forces, claimed that PMF fighters were seen defacing the flag of Kurdistan and removing portraits of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani from the positions they seized. 

"Our orders now are not to engage them but if they advance further we will have to act," he said.

Kurdish flags defaced in formerly Peshmerga-held positions

Kirkuk, an oil-rich province populated by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians, is one of 15 ethnically mixed areas in northern Iraq that participated in the Kurdish referendum for independence on 25 September.

Many Kurds and non-Kurds in the region expressed fears before the vote that Baghdad would attempt to regain control of Kirkuk after the referendum and send in the Shia PMF militias, who had been stationed just outside the province.

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