The Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga have been key allies of the US-led coalition in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and the threat of armed clashes between them poses a major challenge for Western governments. Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when the jihadists swept through much of northern and western Iraq. Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back. "The Iraqi armed forces are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014," an army general told AFP by telephone, asking not to be identified. He said federal troops had already taken one base west of Kirkuk on Friday morning after peshmerga fighters withdrew during the night without a fight.
We are a peaceful people and been victims of history & oppresion. We never attacked any one, always defended our people & our land. For protecting Kirkuk , every single Kurd is a peshemrge. Do not test our will. pic.twitter.com/16nu9ymvo8— Hemin Hawrami (@heminhawrami) October 12, 2017
Kurdish media reported that the peshmerga had withdrawn from around 72 sq-km of territory. Sheikh Mustafa said there had been an attempt to negotiate an agreed disengagement of forces through Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi but it had been overruled by field commanders. A top aide to Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani vowed that peshmerga forces would defend their positions "at any cost". "Thousands of heavily armed peshmerga units are now completely in their positions around Kirkuk," Hemin Hawrami said. "Their order is to defend at any cost." The Kurdish authorities 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 readiness for an attack.
Sheikh Jaafar,Peshmerga Cmnd. from Kirkuk, says they will not initiate a war against Iraqi forces, but will strongly defend own land pic.twitter.com/3bFCystLV1October 13, 2017
Hawrami urged the international community to intervene and call on the Iraqi prime minister to "order PMF to pull back if he can or if they listen to him". Although there was no immediate comment from Abadi, a legislator close to the premier said Iraqi special forces and police as well as the PMF were advancing "to retake control of the oil fields taken by the peshmerga when IS entered Iraq". It was "logical for the peshmerga to withdraw" in the face of the advance, said Jassem Jaafar. The PMF issued no statement but it published photographs of one of its fighters making a victory sign in front of a Kurdish flag. In Kirkuk, long queues formed at petrol stations Friday as motorists rushed to fill up, an AFP correspondent reported, and witnesses said armed civilians appeared on the streets of Kurdish neighbourhoods.
More footages from PMF and Iraq federal police unit who are preparing to attack Peshmerge forces and people of kirkuk . What will be international community position to see sectarian forces using American weapons to attack their Ally in the fight of ISIS? pic.twitter.com/pFba5zpcos— Hemin Hawrami (@heminhawrami) October 12, 2017