Thousands of Kurdish Troops Sent to Kirkuk to Face 'Iraqi Threat'

Thousands of Kurdish Troops Sent to Kirkuk to Face 'Iraqi Threat'

Some local and global news outlets had earlier reported that the Iraqi army had launched fresh operations in southern Kirkuk aimed at capturing areas now held by forces loyal to the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

The Kirkuk province along with parts of the provinces of Nineveh, Saladin (northern Iraq) and Diyala (eastern Iraq) are disputed between Baghdad and the KRG and inhabited by a mixture of ethnic Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.

There is concern about a meeting between Iraqi and Kurdish militaries as a result of increased tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, a cause of a separatist referendum held last September.

Kurdish authorities have sent thousands more troops to the oil region of Kirkuk to confront "threats" from Iraq's central government, the vice president of the autonomous Kurdistan region said on Friday.

The two main highways connecting Erbil and the city of Douc with Mosul, the second city of Iraq, remain blocked by Peshmerga.

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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 Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly said he has no plans to go further and actually attack the territory.

According to results announced by the KRG, nearly 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.

The referendum faced strong opposition from most regional and global actors (including the U.S., Turkey, and Iran), who warned that the poll would distract from Iraq's fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.

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