Iraqi security forces have launched a “major operation” in the Kurdish-held region of Kirkuk to take control of a strategic military base and oil fields, according Kurdish and Iraqi officials.
The aim of the advance early on Monday was taking control of the Kurdish-controlled K1 airbase, west of Kirkuk, Lieutenant Colonel Salah el-Kinani, of the Iraqi army’s 9th armoured division, told Reuters news agency.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council said that Iraqi forces and members of the Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) – paramilitary units largely made up of Iran-trained Shia militias – were advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a “major operation”.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave orders to the security forces “to impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with the population and the Peshmerga”, state TV said.
Neither side reported any armed confrontation one hour after the initial report of the Iraqi advance.
According to the Iraqi army, the operation is spearheaded by its troops, federal police and counterterrorism units, and Shia militia groups are in a supportive role, added Stratford.
The operation followed a tense armed standoff in the area between Iraqi soldiers and allied PMF militia and Kurdish Peshmerga forces amid an escalating row between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.
Source: News agencies