Iraqi forces 'launch major Kirkuk operation'

Pauline Gross
October 16, 2017

The Iraqi parliament asked Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send troops to Kirkuk and other disputed areas after the official referendum results - which overwhelmingly backed independence - were proclaimed.

KRG Vice President Kosrat Rassel said Friday that Kurdish forces were responding by beefing up their forces "in and around" Kirkuk. "At least 6,000 additional Peshmerga were deployed since Thursday night to face the Iraqi forces' threat".

Kirkuk, a city of more than a million people, is outside the KRG territory, but Peshmerga forces have been stationed in the city since 2014, when Iraqi security forces suffered setbacks against IS attacks.

An Iraqi army officer told AFP that "our forces are not moving, and are now waiting for orders from the general staff".

An Iraqi Kurd waves the Kurdish flag while celebrating the independence vote on September 27.

Al-Abadi said he had no plans for military operations in Kirkuk and was focused on recapturing the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq, near the western border with Syria.

Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk province, had said late last week that Baghdad had delivered an "ultimatum" to with draw from the base and the oil fields.

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Both Iraqi military and Peshmerga forces have been operating in close proximity in northern Iraq in the USA -backed war against the Islamic State group.

Offensives are being prepared south and west of Kirkuk and north of Mosul, said the KRG's security council.

The Kurds have repeatedly called for negotiations following the referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted for independence.

Joint Iraqi forces today began to advance to the northern province of Kirkuk, held by Iraqi Kurdistan, with the aim of recovering the oil wells of that northern region.

"The talks between Erbil and Baghdad should be under the supervision of global parties", the statement added.

"We are getting ready for the battle in al-Qaim, we're not concerned by confrontations other than with Daesh", he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. "We call on the Iraqi government to return to dialogue and peaceful means to settle differences instead of deploying forces and imposing its will".

Other reports by GizPress

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