Friday, October 13, 2017

Iraq forces retake positions from Kurds in Kirkuk

oil-rich province of Kirkuk
Iraqi forces Friday retook positions controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters since 2014 in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk amid a bitter row with the Kurds over a vote for independence last month.


A senior Kurdish official said thousands of heavily armed fighters had been deployed to defend themselves "at any cost" against the Iraqi operation and called for international intervention.

Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when Daesh (ISIS) swept through much of northern and western Iraq.

Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back.

Speaking from an area south of the provincial capital Kirkuk, the general said federal troops had retaken "Base 102" west of the city after peshmerga fighters withdrew during the night without a fight.

The peshmerga's Kirkuk commander, Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, said his forces had withdrawn from areas they had recently entered during fighting against IS in the west of the province.

"We withdrew to our lines in the area around Kirkuk and we will defend the city in the event of an attack," he said.

"If the Iraqi army advances, we will fight."
  [dailystar.com.lb/AFP]
 13/10/17
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