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13 October 2017, 08:07 | Devin Moran
AFP: Iraq army launches operation to retake disputed Kirkuk
Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday warned the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) against mobilizing their armed Peshmerga forces in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk, Anadolu Agency reports.
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.
On the eve of the independence referendum, the Kurds intensified the concentration of their forces in Kirkuk. "Intelligence shows intentions to take over nearby oil fields, airport and military base", it said in a statement.
Polling was held in the three provinces that have long formed an autonomous Kurdish region as well as neighbouring areas, including Kirkuk, that Kurdish forces seized from ISIL during the fightback against the jihadists' 2014 offensive through areas north and west of Baghdad.
Iraq's tough line towards the Kurds has the support of neighbours Turkey and Iran, which strongly oppose the secessionist movement given their own sizable Kurdish minorities.
Hemin Hawrami Tweeted early Friday that Hashd al-Shaabi fighters were preparing "to attack oil wells and areas controlled by Peshmerga forces", loyal to northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for the chairman of the Kurdish referendum commission and two aides for "violating a valid court ruling" banning the independence vote as against the Constitution.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is expected to visit Baghdad on Sunday to meet with Abadi.
The Peshmerga deployed amid KRG fears of Iraqi government troops and militia moving against the city.
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.
They accused the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - paramilitary units dominated by Iran-trained Shiite militia - of massing fighters in two mainly Shiite Turkmen areas south of Kirkuk in a bid to provoke a confrontation.
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