Iraqi troops move to retake Kirkuk from Kurdish control

Oct. 12 2017 shows an Italian librarian who has won the right from her employer to use family sick leave to care for her ailing pet instead of having to use vacation days posing with her

Oil flowed normally from fields in northern Iraq even as government troops and allied militias faced off with forces from the independence-seeking Kurdish region on the outskirts of the disputed area of Kirkuk.

The reports say that forces began moving at midnight on Sunday towards oil fields and an important air base held by Kurdish forces near the city.

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, police forces and the army's ninth brigade regained control of a vast territory in Kirkuk including the oil well, Baba Gurgur, without clashing with the Peshmerga forces located in Kirkuk.

The Kurds held a non-binding independence referendum on September 25, seen by Baghdad as a power grab. Iran and Turkey, both with their own restive Kurdish minorities, led regional opposition to the referendum and on Monday, Turkey's foreign ministry issued a statement stressing the need for Iraqi unity.

Ahead of the launch of the military operation, the Iraqi government accused Kurdish authorities of harboring Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Kirkuk, calling it "a declaration of war against other Iraqis and legal security forces".

Washington, which arms and trains both Iraqi federal forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight Islamic State militants, called on "all parties to immediately cease military action and restore calm", according to a U.S. Embassy statement.

Kirkuk, a city of more than a million people with a large Kurdish community, lies just outside KRG territory, but Peshmerga forces were stationed there in 2014 when Iraqi security forces collapsed in the face of an Islamic State onslaught.

The Iraqi parliament asked Mr Abadi to deploy troops to Kirkuk and other disputed areas after the referendum result was announced, but he said last week that he would accept them being governed by a "joint administration" and that he did not want an armed confrontation.

The central government and the autonomous Kurdish region have always been divided over the sharing of oil revenues and the fate of disputed territories like Kirkuk that are controlled by Kurdish forces but are outside their self-ruled region.




In addition to harboring Kurdish troops, the K-1 military base before the advance was also home to a contingent of US -led coalition forces.

The military action in Kirkuk helped spur a jump in world oil prices on Monday.

On Sunday, Tehran denied a claim from a Kurdish official that Iran had followed through on threats to close its border with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Al-Assadi said the state-backed militias, mainly Shiite Arab fighters known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, have not entered the city centre, but reporters saw Turkmen PMF militiamen taking up posts in the western part of the city. The Iraqi military said it seized two major oil fields outside the city.

The withdrawal of part of the Kurdish forces is ultimately a reflection of deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties, whose rivalry has always been intense. It pitted members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan against Turkmen loyal to Shiite political groups ruling Iraq. While Barzani's KDP strongly supported the independence referendum, some PUK figures were more circumspect.

The status of Kirkuk and fate of the Kurds were left unsettled 14 years ago when a US-led invasion toppled Saddam.

"We are warning all sides against damaging stability and undermining the fight against ISIS", Galloway said, using an alternative acronym for the Daesh terrorist group, which still maintains a limited presence in war-torn Iraq.

During the years of United States occupation that followed, Washington leaned on its Kurdish allies to keep their ambitions in check to avoid triggering another war amid an insurgency by Sunni Arabs.

Turkey, which had developed a good working relationship with the Iraqi Kurds and let the landlocked region export oil through its pipes, has swung behind Baghdad, furious at a secession bid that might ignite similar demands from its own Kurds.

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