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.
A top aide to KRG President Masoud Barzani recently asserted that the Hashd al-Shaabi - a Shia force that fights alongside the Iraqi army - was planning to attack oil wells in Kirkuk. "Their order is to defend at any cost".
Hours before it was to begin, the northern Iraqi administration mobilized additional Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk with a view to securing the illegal referendum.
Meanwhile, Turkish media outlets reported Thursday that fighters deployed in Kirkuk include hundreds of militants of the PKK terrorist group. Earlier Baghdad dismissed the governor of Kirkuk and made a decision to deploy troops to the province.
On Sept. 25, Iraqis in KRG-held areas - and in several areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil, including Kirkuk - voted on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq.
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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.
Lt. Gen. Wasta Rasul said Friday his forces evacuated positions southwest of the city, while an officer in the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division said his forces had moved into positions left by the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, in the same area.
"Intelligence shows intention to take over nearby oil fields, airport and military base".
It also denied reports it had launched fresh operations south of Kirkuk with the aim of capturing Peshmerga-held areas in the province's north.
Hawrami urged the global community to intervene and call on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to "order PMF to pull back if he can or if they listen to him". "Just defend and roll them back if they attack", the senior Barzani adviser added.
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