• search
For Quick Alerts
For Daily Alerts

Iraqi forces enter Kirkuk province, no opposition by Kurdish forces


Baghdad, Oct 16: Iraqi federal forces entered disputed territory held by Kurds, seeking to end a nearly month-old political fight over areas taken under control by Kurdish militias three years ago to defend the oil city of Kirkuk against the Islamic State group.

Image for representation only

The Iraqi army and federal anti-terrorist and police units rolled into parts of the countryside outside the city without facing resistance from Kurdish peshmerga forces, Al- Iraqiya state TV said.

However, some residents of the city and an Iraqi militia commander reported shelling. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's office said in a statement carried on Al-Iraqiya that Iraq's leader ordered federal forces to "impose security in the city in cooperation with the inhabitants and the peshmerga," indicating he was willing to share administration of the city with the Kurdish autonomous region that neighbours Kirkuk province.

The move came three weeks after Kurds voted for independence in a controversial but symbolic referendum that Baghdad has so refused to acknowledge. It says the vote organized by the country's regional Kurdish authority was unconstitutional. A commander of the local Kurdish police force said his forces remained in control of the province's disputed oil wells.

"There's been no agreement to hand over the wells until now. As for the future, I don't know," said Bahja Ahmad Amin.

Kurdish forces deployed into the now disputed areas after Iraqi federal defenses crumbled during an advance by Islamic State fighters in 2014. Baghdad has insisted the Kurds return control of the areas ever since. Inside Kirkuk city, which is home to more than 1 million people, residents shuttered themselves in homes and reported hearing sporadic booms they said sounded like shelling and rocket fire.

Iraq's state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Militias were ordered to stay out of the city, according to Abadi's office, and instead keep positions in the countryside. They are viewed with deep suspicion by Kurdish residents, who see them as beholden to Iran rather than Iraq's central government. The predominantly Shiite militias are sponsored and guided by Tehran. Ercuman Turkman, a PMF militia commander, said shortly before forces began moving in that he expected orders to move on to Kirkuk's oil wells, its airport and the nearby K-1 military base, but not the city.

Haytham Hashem, another PMF commander, reported shelling on his position in Toz Khormato, 10 kilometres from the edge of Kirkuk city. Baghdad has been turning the screws on the Kurdish region since the September referendum, pushing Kurd leaders to disavow the vote and accept shared administration over Kirkuk.

Iraq's government barred international flights to and from the region and asked neighboring Turkey and Iran to close their borders. Iran closed its three official crossings with the Kurdish region yesterday, Kurdish media reported. It also froze currency transfers to four banks operating in the Kurdish region. Abadi has demanded shared administration over Kirkuk. His Cabinet said Sunday that fighters from Turkey's Kurdish insurgency, the PKK, were beginning to appear in Kirkuk, and declared that would be tantamount to an act of war.


For Daily Alerts
Get Instant News Updates
Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Settings X
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Oneindia sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Oneindia website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more