Iraqi forces 'take control' of Kirkuk territories from Kurds

Iraqi forces 'take control' of Kirkuk territories from Kurds
2 min read
16 October, 2017
Iraqi forces have launched an assault on Kurdish positions around Kirkuk, with Erbil vowing to resist any offensive by pro-Baghdad military units.
Iraqi forces are advancing on Kirkuk [AFP]
Iraqi military units have launched an offensive against Kurdish positions in Kirkuk, with Baghdad claiming its forces are now in control of key infrastructure around the disputed city.

Iraqi armour, special forces and the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias (Popular Mobilisation Forces) took control of roads and key positions around Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga following a tense stand-off between the two sides, Baghdad claimed.

It began with pro-Baghdad forces launching a barrage of artillery at the Kurdish positions before reportedly capturing two bridges, two roads, and an industrial zone to the south-west of Kirkuk.

Also seized were gas facilities, a power station, a refinery and a police station, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said.

Later, Baghdad said a major military base had been capture by its forces.

Iraq's military command has vowed to "restore security" in Kirkuk. In a tweet Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had "directed the armed forces to protect all citizens in Kirkuk".

The move follows an ultimatum to Peshmerga forces to abandon territory captured during a Kurdish counter-offensive against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) denied that Iraqi forces had taken new territories but acknowledged military operations are taking place.

"Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation are now advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a major operation," the KRG said in a statement to Reuters.

"Their intention is to enter the city and take over the K1 air base and oil fields." 

Hashd al-Shaabi fighters have reportedly taken a lead role in the offensive with Iran's Republican Guards commander Qasem Soleimani taking a lead role in the operation.

Tensions between the two sides have remained tense since a referendum in KRG territories and Kirkuk saw Kurds overwhelmingly back a vote on independence and ordered a blockade on the Kurdish territories, demanding Erbil handover airports to the government.

The status of Kirkuk - captured by Kurdish forces during their offensive against IS - has led to tensions, with Baghdad saying the oil-rich city is an integral part of Iraq.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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