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Iraq seizes oil fields as fighting flares over Kurds' state push
17 October 2017, 12:27 | Tara Lloyd
Haider Al Abadi
Monday's Peshmergastatement accused a group within the PUK of "treason" for assisting Baghdad's advance.
The government in Baghdad said the Peshmerga had withdrawn "without fighting".
Thousands of revelers waving the Iraqi Turkmen and Iraqi national flags were celebrating the transfer of power in downtown Kirkuk by nightfall, but thousands more were fleeing the city with their belongings to the neighboring Kurdish region, fearful of national or militia rule.
Residents feared this could lead to clashes with Kurds.
He did so by holding a referendum on Kurdish independence on 25 September that was greeted with enthusiasm by Iraqi Kurds.
It was not immediately clear whether or when the Iraqi government would seek to retake control of all Kirkuk oilfields, a vital source of revenue for the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
He called on "all citizens to cooperate with the armed forces" who had been tasked with "protecting civilians in the first degree and imposing security and order and protecting the facilities and institutions of the state".
The troops were ordered to "impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga", Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on live television.
PUK officials on Sunday said that they had made an offer to Baghdad to agree to allow central government troops from the Presidential Guard, who are ethnically Kurdish, into the Kirkuk region.
Exactly a year after US -backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched an operation to rout the Islamic State group and retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, those USA -trained forces were pitted against each other in northeast Iraq on Monday.
"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 and futher clashes", the United States embassy said.
The KDP-affiliated Kurdistan Region Security Council said it destroyed five USA -supplied Humvees used in the advance by Iraq's popular mobilization units, an umbrella group containing Iranian-backed militias that fight as part of Iraq's security forces. The latest issue of the group's weekly Al-Naba bulletin called on its members to resume ambush attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.
Bayan Sami Rahman, the Kurdish regional government's representative in the United States, tweeted a plea for Washington to "use (its) leadership role to prevent war".
The military action in Kirkuk helped spur a jump in world oil prices on Monday.
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The referendum had faced strong opposition from most regional and worldwide 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 already-volatile region. Washington, allied with the Kurds for decades, had pleaded in vain for them to cancel the vote, arguing that it could lead to regional war and the breakup of Iraq. It is thought to have a Kurdish majority, but its provincial capital has large Arab and Turkmen populations.
Swiftly. Iraq's army, its anti-terrorism forces and the federal police began their operations before dawn Monday.
Pumping stopped at Kirkuk's two main oil fields as Kurdish technicians halted operations and left the wells, an oil ministry official said.
The city of Kirkuk itself remained under Kurdish control, 12 hours after the start of the Iraqi operation, but two routes in and out were under control of the Iraqi forces.
Both Kurdish parties control their own Peshmerga units.
Part of the PUK, much divided since its leader Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke and sank into a coma, opposed the independence referendum as a manoeuvre by Mr Barzani to present himself as the great Kurdish nationalist leader.
A Kurdish health official said at least 10 peshmerga fighters were killed and 27 wounded during fighting overnight, but there was no confirmation of the toll from the Kurdish government.
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The Peshmerga and Popular Mobilisation exchanged artillery fire south of Kirkuk, a Kurdish security official said.
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It further stated that the train departed at 9 am from Karmali and 230 passengers were served breakfast on board. The IRCTC officials said that an enquiry would be initiated to find out the cause of the food poisoning.