Kirkuk: Iraqi forces seize largest oilfields near city

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Media captionIraqi federal police advance towards disputed city of Kirkuk

Iraqi government forces have taken control of the two largest oilfields near the disputed city of Kirkuk after Kurdish forces left the area.

Iraqi troops began a takeover of Kirkuk on Monday.

The actions come three weeks after a Kurdish referendum on independence, which was declared illegitimate by the central Iraqi government.

Voters inside the Kurdish autonomous region along with Kurdish-held areas overwhelmingly backed secession.

On Tuesday, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani released a statement calling for peace along with pledging to keep working towards independence.

“The loud voices you raised for the independence of Kurdistan, which you sent to all nations along with world countries, will not be wasted right now or ever,” he said, according to Irbil-based Rudaw news site.

He also blamed the loss of Kirkuk on internal disputes between Kurdish politicians.

The speed with which Iraqi forces reached the centre of Kirkuk has led the two main armed Kurdish parties to accuse each various other of “betrayal”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the latest operation was necessary to “protect the unity of the country”, having previously denounced the referendum as unconstitutional.

A sudden switch

By Orla Guerin, BBC News, Kirkuk

A large statute of a Peshmerga fighter still looms over the entrance to Kirkuk, however otherwise there’s little sign left of Kurdish control.

Iraqi forces are right now firmly in command, manning brand-new checkpoints on the road to the city.

The city was peaceful however Kurdish areas looked like a ghost town, with shops along with homes sealed shut. The thousands who fled the Iraqi advance have not rushed back.

The few people we found on the streets spoke of uncertainty, along with loss.

Some were angry at Peshmerga fighters for not defending the city. Others blamed the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, for triggering the Iraqi takeover with last month’s independence vote.

A large poster of President Barzani has been damaged by fire. Locals told us Shia militia, officially controlled by Baghdad, set of which alight when they entered the city. The burnt portrait will be a potent symbol of his loss of authority here.

Why will be Kirkuk at the heart of This specific crisis?

Kirkuk will be an oil-rich province along with its oilfields are vital to the Kurdish economy. of which lies outside the official Kurdistan region along with will be claimed by both the Kurds along with the central government. of which will be thought to have a Kurdish majority, however its provincial capital also has large Arab along with Turkmen populations.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of much of the province in 2014, when Islamic State (will be) group militants swept across northern Iraq along with the Iraqi army collapsed.

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Media captionShooting breaks out at a checkpoint in Kirkuk

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces captured the Bai Hassan along with Avana oilfields run by state-owned North Oil Company, north of Kirkuk.

A day earlier, troops had captured various other key military bases along with various other oilfields, as well as the governor’s office. Forces pulled down the Kurdish flag, which had been flying alongside the Iraqi national flag, reports said.

Which areas are affected?

Kurdish forces have also left an area on the border with Iran, reports say.

Iraqi troops are also preparing to take control of the Khanaqin area, where a modest oilfield will be located, security sources were quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Meanwhile, a Yazidi militia retook the town of Sinjar, inside the northern Nineveh province, without violence.

Peshmerga forces had established control over Sinjar while battling will be. The town was the site of one of the group’s worst atrocities, when thousands of Yazidis were killed along with enslaved after the jihadists seized control in 2014.

Territorial control before 16 Oct 2017

The United States said of which was “very concerned” by reports of violence around Kirkuk along with urged “calm”.

The Peshmerga General Command, which will be led by President Massoud Barzani of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), accused officials via the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of aiding “the plot against the people of Kurdistan”.

The PUK denied being part of ordering any withdrawal, saying dozens of their fighters had been killed along with hurt, however noted “not even one KDP Peshmerga has been martyred as of yet inside the fighting in Kirkuk”.

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