Iraqi military advances in Kirkuk, captures key positions from Kurdish forces

Iraqi military advances in Kirkuk, captures key positions from Kurdish forces
Iraqi troops have captured several key Peshmerga-controlled positions near Kirkuk, one of the key cities in Iraqi Kurdistan and continue to advance, the Iraqi military has said.

The Iraqi armed forces gained control of roads and infrastructure near Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters, including the North Gas Company station, a nearby oil processing plant, and the industrial district south of the city. The military also captured Kirkuk’s K-1 Air Base from Kurdish forces, a military statement says, according to Reuters.

Following the clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga military force and Iraqi government troops supported by pro-government militas civilians blocked roads inside Kirkuk to prevent Peshmerga military vehicles from retreating, according to Rudaw.

The troops were ordered to “impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on live television. Under the orders, the army should “secure bases [and] federal installations in Kirkuk province.” The troops were also advised “to cooperate with Peshmerga and avoid confrontations, and to protect all civilians.”

The first four Iraqi vehicles tried to cross the defence lines are destroyed by Peshmerga. Still, war is not the solution.

Iraqi state TV reported that Counter-Terrorism Service, the federal government and the 9th division of the Iraqi Army, have already secured “large areas” without any resistance from the Kurdish command.

Kurdish news channel, Rudaw, however, reported that clashes between Kurdish and government-led forces erupted on the Taza Khurmatu front near Kirkuk.

Iraqi security sources told Reuters that gunfire was heard in Kirkuk while the Peshmerga were urging the locals to resist. Kurdish sources meanwhile told the agency that clashes took place in the industrial zone of Kirkuk, while an artillery exchange took place south of the city.

Peshmerga forces attacked by Iraqi forces/PMF in  using US equipment, incl Abrams tanks & Humvees gifted to Iraq for the war on Isis.

Earlier Baghdad and the command of PMF issued a list of demands calling on Peshmerga forces to leave a number of positions south and west of Kirkuk so that those outposts can be transferred under the control of Baghdad. The Kurds were reportedly given a deadline of 2am to comply with the ultimatum, Rudaw News reported.

The Kurdish leadership said on Saturday that they would not comply and leave all of the outposts mentioned in a list of demands, provincial Governor Najmaldin Karim told reporters.

“The places that they have demanded, as mentioned in those points, have so far all been rejected,” Karim was quoted as saying by Rudaw.

Tensions between Baghdad and the regional Kurdish government have been tense in the wake of Kurdistan’s independence referendum late last month where some 92.7 percent of voters chose to leave Iraq.

Baghdad immediately denounced the move as “unconstitutional.” Turkey, Iran and Syria also expressed their opposition to the creation of an independent Kurdistan over concerns that it may spur separatist sentiment in their own Kurdish-populated areas.

The Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry quickly dismissed the allegations. Kurdish leaders also rejected a call by Baghdad to cancel the results of the September 25 independence vote.

“The outcome of the referendum will not be nullified,” the Kurdish region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said after consulting Kurdistan’s two main political parties. “Talk of canceling these results is out of the question and will not address the problems.”

Courtesy: RT

Kurdistan accuses Baghdad of planning oil field seizure

Kurdistan accuses Baghdad of planning oil field seizure
Kurdistan authorities have accused the central Iraqi government of planning to seize oil fields in the autonomous region. Baghdad is amassing military power in two areas south of Kirkuk – the center of the oil-rich region that is formally part of Iraq but de facto controlled by the Kurdish government.

The AFP separately quoted an Iraqi general who confirmed the information, saying “Iraqi armed force are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014.” In 2014, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces took over Kirkuk, driving IS out. Since the, the multiethnic city has been the subject of an ongoing dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad.

The latest news reports from Iraq say that Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi first denied there was a government plan in progress to retake the oil fields around Kirkuk, and then ordered a halt to the advance of Iraqi troops towards the northern Iraqi city.

According to the Kurdistan Regional Security Council, there are Iraqi army forces as well as Popular Mobilization Forces units near Kirkuk deploying tanks and heavy artillery in an area populated predominantly by Shia Turkmens. The PMF is a paramilitary organization, trained by Iran.

This is the latest spike in internal tensions in OPEC’s number-two oil exporter that follows the Kurds’ vote for independence from Baghdad. The central Iraqi government has made no secret of its opposition to Kurdish independence and it has had the support of Turkey and Iran.

Immediately after the independence referendum, Baghdad closed all international air traffic to and from the autonomous region, and later began talks with Turkey to revive an old oil pipeline between the two countries that bypasses Kurdistan.

Read more on Busting The Lithium Bubble Myth

Now it seems Baghdad has escalated the pressure as the Kurds refuse to cancel the results of their referendum and seem intent on getting their independence whether the rest of the region likes it or not.

Kirkuk and the oil fields around it, however, are vital for the autonomous region. They also represent a substantial portion of Iraq’s oil wealth, which it is naturally unwilling to surrender to the Kurds. Baghdad has repeatedly called on Erbil to relinquish control of Kirkuk to the federal government.

This article was originally published on

Courtesy: RT

Iraq imposes flight ban on Kurdish airports in response to independence referendum

An overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds voted for independence in Monday’s referendum. But the Iraqi central government in Baghdad is cracking down on Kurdish leaders in a bid to force them to annul that decision.

Irak Erbil International Airport in irakische Kurdistan (picture-alliance/dpa/Sputnik/V. Sergeev)

An international flight ban enacted by the central Iraqi government against cities in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region came into effect Friday evening amid rising tensions following Monday’s controversial vote for Kurdish independence.

The ban took effect at 6 p.m. local time (1600 UTC) and covers all international flights to Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital city, Irbil, and its second-largest city, Sulaimaniya. Domestic flights will continue as normal, the Iraqi ministry of transport said today.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-AbadiIraqi prime minister al-Abadi had warned that Iraq would impose the ban if Kurdish leaders did not hand over control of local airports to Iraqi authorities

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had announced on Wednesday that his government would institute the ban within three days if leaders from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) did not hand over control of local airports to Iraqi authorities.

The KRG refused to meet that demand and has criticized Baghdad for pursuing “unlawful” measures that amount to “collective punishment.”

“The Irbil and Sulaimaniya airports belong to Kurdistan,” KRG Transport Minister Mawlood Bawa Murad said Wednesday. “The demand of the Iraqi government to hand over airports is inappropriate and incorrect.”

Read more: Iraq warns Kurds as they claim victory in independence vote

KRG leader Massud Barzani had called on the central government to join negotiations about Kurdistan’s future after more than 90 percent of Kurdish voters opted for secession on Monday. Baghdad should “not to close the door to dialogue because it is dialogue that will solve problems,” Barzani said Tuesday.

Most regional and several international carriers have said they will halt flights to the region. Well-known airlines Egypt Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines have all announced flight cancellations.

Speaker of the IKRG Independent High Election and Referendum Commission Hindirin Mohammed declares Kurdish independence referendum results.The Kurdish electoral commission said over 90 percent of voters opted for independence in Monday’s referendum.

No oil, few friends

The KRG has found itself increasingly isolated as Baghdad and other neighboring countries with large Kurdish populations have pressed for the referendum result to be annulled.

Turkey said Thursday that it would start dealing exclusively with Baghdad on oil sales. The KRG could lose up to 80 percent of revenue if Turkey decides to halt imports of Iraqi oil via a pipeline that runs through Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said however that Ankara would only institute targeted oil sanctions against individuals responsible for holding the referendum to avoid impacting civilians in the region. He did not give further details on how the sanctions would spare civilians.

Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish population in the region and Ankara fears that Monday’s vote may bolster Turkish Kurds’ calls for independence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that any move toward independence would risk an “ethnic war.”

Read more: Opinion: Kurds find few friends in independence referendum

Both Turkey and Baghdad have signaled a willingness to intervene militarily in the KRG if Kurdish leaders do not back down.

Infografik Karte Kurdische Siedlungsgebiete ENG

On Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament asked Prime Minister al-Abadi to use the Iraqi army to retake the oil fields in Kirkuk, an area that the KRG has only controlled since 2014, but that it included in the independence referendum.

The prime minister has so far held off sending troops into the area. However, the Iraqi military has conducted joint military drills with Turkey along the Iraqi Kurdistan border and Baghdad has said it also sent a delegation to Iran, which also opposes Kurdish independence, “to coordinate military efforts.”

Turkey and Iran have also reportedly conducted joint military exercises along their respective borders with the KRG.

The US, the European Union, and the United Nations have all criticized the referendum, saying it risks destabilizing an already volatile region.

Read more: The Middle East’s complex Kurdish landscape

amp/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

Watch video02:04

Kurdish independence vote sparks backlash



Deadly bomb blasts rip through central Baghdad

Nearly 20 people have been killed in multiple bomb blasts in a busy market in the Iraqi capital, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in a busy market area in Baghdad's Sinak neighborhoodIraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in a busy market area in Baghdad’s Sinak neighborhood


Mosul: the last stand for ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq

In a rare speech, the militant group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for fighters to stand their ground in Mosul. DW spoke to Hassan Hassan, co-author of “ISIS: The Army of Terror,” to examine the implications.

At least 19 people have been killed and 38 others wounded on Saturday when two bombs exploded in a busy market in central Baghdad, according to Iraqi police.

Baghdad has been rocked by several bomb attacks in 2016, which have often left dozens killed and scores more injured.

The bombs went off near car spare parts shops in Sinak during the morning rush hour. One was triggered by a suicide bomber and another was a planted explosive, an interior ministry official told Reuters news agency.

Baghdad has been put on high alert since October, when Iraqi forces launched a military campaign to liberate Mosul from the “Islamic State” militant group.

Backed by the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State,” Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the campaign has slowed due to fierce resistance from the militant group.

Although Raqqa in Syria is considered the militant group’s de facto capital, Mosul represents one of its most important strongholds. In June 2014, “Islamic State” leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of the group’s so-called “caliphate” from Mosul.

Saturday’s attack marks the biggest in the Iraqi capital since the beginning of the Mosul operation. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

ls/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)


Anti-‘IS’ offensive resumes in Iraqi city of Mosul

Iraq’s military says it has restarted its campaign to drive “Islamic State” (IS) militants from their northern bastion of Mosul. It hopes to move to within a few hundred meters of the city’s eastern limits on Monday.

Popular Mobilization Forces

“The target is to retake Bazwaya and Gogjali, the last two villages before Mosul,” a lieutenant colonel with Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency on Monday.


Iraq forces launch operation to cut Mosul off from Syria

Paramilitaries in Iraq have launched an assault on the town of Tel Afar, which was mainly Shiite before it fell to Sunni jihadis. The Iran-backed Shiite militia have promised not to advance into majority Sunni Mosul. (29.10.2016)

The recapture of Mosul will not mean the end of ‘IS’

‘By far the biggest humanitarian disaster in the world’

‘IS’ committing massacres in Mosul as Iraqi forces push forward, says UN

UN: IS abducts thousands from Mosul to use as human shields

The Joint Operations Command coordinating Iraq’s war on “Islamic State” (IS) said CTS and army forces had launched a drive “to advance toward the left bank of the city of Mosul from three axes.”

AFP described how a coalition aircraft struck a suspected IS mortar position in the distance, while a convoy of Humvees sprayed gunfire toward an industrial area still held by jihadists.

IS resisting advance

The Associated Press (AP) said car bombers were trying to stop the advance, citing Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, who said troops aimed to enter the eastern outskirts of Mosul later on Monday.

The coalition drive to retake the city began exactly two weeks ago. IS militants captured the city in June 2014 as they seized vast swathes of land in Iraq and neighboring Syria as part of their declaration of a caliphate, a state governed by strict Islamic law.

Last week Iraq’s elite counterterrorism unit had paused its advance on the city with a population of 1.5 million to allow forces advancing more slowly on other fronts to close the gap.

Advances have been slower in the south, with government forces still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city.

On Sunday, a new player joined the battlefield, as a  coalition of roughly 5,000 Iran-backed Shiite militias – known as Popular Mobilization Forces– headed north towards Mosul in gun trucks and Humvees.

Military officials said they were not headed directly for the IS-held city, but had set their sights on the town of Tal Afar to the west, the retaking of which would help cut supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian border.

Once Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga, reach Mosul, they are expected to besiege the city on all sides, attempt to open safe corridors for civilians, and then take on diehard jihadists in street battles.

Baghdad bombed

On Sunday, five bombs rocked Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding over 60, police said.

Local media speculated that the attacks were likely carried out by IS in retaliation for Shiite fighters joining the Mosul offensive.

Watch video02:11

Mosul: coalition meets fierce resistance

mm/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)


Iraq violence: Dozens dead in Baghdad suicide attack on Shia


Iraqi security forces at the site of a suicide bombing in the Shaab area of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 15 October 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSo-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack

At least 35 people have died in a suicide attack targeting Shia in Iraq’s capital Baghdad, officials say.

More than 60 were injured in the blast, carried out on a tent in a crowded market in a northern district of the city.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Many Shia pilgrims are taking part in mourning rituals commemorating the killing of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein, in the 7th Century.

Reports say a militant detonated a suicide vest in the tent at lunchtime, when it was full of pilgrims.

IS said in a statement, published through the messaging service Telegram, that the attack on Saturday was carried out “in the middle of a gathering” in the Shaab area of Baghdad.

Map showing Baghdad and Tikrit in Iraq

BBC Middle East editor Sebastian Usher says Sunni militants have long used such pilgrimages as targets for attacks causing large scale casualties.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a suicide attack in Malha, an area east of the city of Tikrit, left eight people dead and 11 wounded, officials said.

In the village of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, the wife and three children of a local commander were also shot dead by militants. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for these two attacks.

This year, IS revived its bombing campaign in Baghdad killing hundreds of people, in what is seen as a response to the group’s loss of much of its territory in Iraq.

In July, a lorry packed with explosives was detonated in central Baghdad’s popular shopping district of Karrada in what was the deadliest single bomb attack in Iraq since 2007.

The latest attacks come as Iraqi forces prepare for an offensive in northern Iraq on Mosul, the last IS-held major city in the country.

Midnight bombings kill 40, injure 60 outside Baghdad shopping mall

No group has claimed responsibility but Iraqi officials warned the group “Islamic State” (IS) has become increasingly desperate as it loses ground. Previous attacks have targeted civilian areas.

Irak Selbstmordanschlag Autobombe Baghdad

At least forty people were killed and a further 60 were wounded following twin explosions in downtown Baghdad, police and medical sources told German news agency DPA on Saturday. The double car bomb attack took place just before midnight on Friday near the popular Nakheel shopping mall.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials have warned that as IS fighters lost ground in Iraq and Syria, they were likely to carry out many smaller-scale terror attacks on civilians.

The first blast came from a parked car, authorities said, followed by an explosives-laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber. An interior ministry spokesman said that none of the victims had been inside the mall but outside in the busy neighborhood surrounding it.

Reports of casualties varied according to the different sources immediately after the blasts. Doctors from the local hospital said they expected the death toll to rise further.

Last Tuesday, IS carried out a similar attack near a hospital in the bustling Karrada district, killing seven people. Karrada was also the site of the Iraqi capital’s deadliest-ever single bombing, which claimed the lives of 300 people in July.

es/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)