Iraqi forces capture Kirkuk

KIRKUK, October 16, 2017 – Iraqi government forces backed by paramilitaries have managed to take over Kirkuk and surrounding oilfields and installations after an attack launched early Monday, international media reported on Monday afternoon.

Iraqi pro-government tanks arrived in the city centre following widespread reports on social media of Kurdish forces retreating from their positions without significant resistance. The government forces and Iranian-trained militias had taken over Kirkuk airport and had seized the provincial government headquarters in the city, Reuters reported.

 

“We are very concerned by reports of violence in Kirkuk and deplore any loss of life,” the US Embassy in Baghdad said in a tweeted statement. “We call on all parties to immediately cease military action and restore calm while we continue to work with officials from the central and regional governments to reduce tensions and avoid further clashes.”

The violence came weeks after areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government, including Kirkuk, voted overwhelmingly to secede from Iraq in a referendum that incensed the central government alongside neighbours Iran and Turkey, which are also home to significant Kurdish minorities. It is the latest step in a series of escalations that have included both economic and military threats by Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara against the administration in Erbil.

The attack on Kirkuk is widely seen as a blow to US and Western European attempts to mediate the crisis. Both the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been the recipients of Western aid and training as part of the war against Islamic State, which threatened Kirkuk in 2014, precipitating its takeover by the Kurds.

“ISIS remains the true enemy of Iraq, and we urge all parties to remain focused on finishing the liberation of their country from this menace,” the US Embassy statement concluded.

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