Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

According to the region's vice president Kosrat Rasul, Iraqi Kurdistan will send 6,000 Peshmerga troops to the province of Kirkuk due to alleged plans by the Iraqi government to launch an offensive to regain control over the area.

Baghdad has demanded the Kurds return to the city to federal authorities, a dispute that has escalated since the Kurds voted for independence in a non-binding referendum last month.

On Wednesday, Iraq issued the warrants against Hendreen Mohammed, the chairman of the KRG's referendum commission, and two aides for violating an Iraqi court ruling that renders the independence vote "invalid" despite a vast majority of Kurds voting in favor of independence, adds the news agency.

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Earlier, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said he would never use military force against Iraqi Kurdistan; The goal is, he said, to free the country from the refugee extremists in the north of the country. Baghdad has ruled out talks unless the KRG renounces the referendum results.

Kurdish Peshmerga moved into Kirkuk when the army collapsed in the face of Islamic State in 2014, preventing the region's oil fields from falling in the hands of the militants.

Kurdish policemen look on towards banners supporting the referendum for independence of Kurdistan in Erbil, Iraq September 24, 2017.

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Kirkuk, a Kurdish-held, multi-ethnic city and surrounding province with large oil reserves, has emerged as a flashpoint in the crisis as it is claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds.

Peshmerga forces loyal to the KRG now dominate areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil (including Kirkuk), which they overran following Daesh's invasion of the country in mid-2014.

Iraqi forces and Shi'ite Muslim paramilitaries, known as Popular Mobilisation, are deployed south and west of Kirkuk, in areas previously under the control of Islamic State.

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The area around al-Qaim, near the Syrian border, is the last part of Iraq still under the control of IS, which overran a third of the country in 2014 but has been driven back by a series of Iraqi military offensives with US support. It is a precautionary measure after an increase in the deployment of Iraqi forces in the area, Irna says.

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