Clashes between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga started, says Peshmerga commander
Clashes between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga were reported in the Taza Khurmatu town south of Kirkuk on Monday.
The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Security Agency announced early Monday that their security forces began an operation to take military bases and oil wells from the Peshmerga.
A statement on the Twitter account of the Security Agency said that Iraqi forces and the pro-government Hashd al-Shaabi militia started at Tuz Khormato to take full action.
Additionally according to the statement the purpose of the launched operation is to enter the city of Kirkuk to take the ‘K1 Military Base’ and oil wells which are under the control of the Peshmerga.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Peshmerga commander Salar Teymur said that the Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militia opened fire at their positions.
Teymur stated that the Peshmerga responded to the fire by the Iraqi forces.
The clashes between the two sides continue, he added.
Earlier Monday KRG president Masoud Barzani ordered the Peshmerga not to open fire against the Iraqi forces.
Barzani’s chief aide Hemin Hawrami said on his Twitter account that the KRG president ordered the Peshmerga not to be the party who starts the conflict.
Hawrami stated that in case of an attack by the Iraqi forces, Barzani gave the Peshmerga ‘the green light’ to use any kind of force to defend themselves.
Earlier the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered the armed forces to protect the safety of all components in Kirkuk, Iraqi state television said on Monday.
“Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the armed forces to protect the life and safety of all components in Kirkuk,” the news on the state run television said.
To ensure security in Kirkuk, al-Abadi also wanted the cooperation of the people in the city and the Peshmerga.
The news also said that the anti-terror-branch, the 9th Brigade and the federal police gained control over a broader range in Kirkuk without conflicts.
“Hashd al-Shaabi under the Joint Operations Command, also offers support for the armed forces outside Kirkuk,” al-Abadi was quoted in the news.
In June 2014, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces took a number of strategic positions in Kirkuk when the Daesh terrorist group swept through northern Iraq and the army collapsed.
Tension has been on the rise between Erbil and Baghdad since last month when the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) held a controversial referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region.
The Sept. 25 illegitimate referendum has faced strong opposition from most regional and international 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 region.
The Iraqi parliament has approved a set of measures against the Kurdish region, including the deployment of federal forces in disputed areas, including Kirkuk.