Baghdad sends military to take control of Kirkuk from Kurds
16 October 201719:34 GMT
Washington is "not taking sides" in the ongoing confrontation between the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, President Donald Trump said Monday.
"We've had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know, and we've also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been there in the first place," Reuters quoted the US leader as telling the media at the White House.
"We're not taking sides in that battle," he said, adding, however: "We don't like the fact that they're clashing."
- 17:46 GMT
Republican US Senator John McCain condemned Iraq’s “misuse” of US-made weaponry against the Kurds, warning Baghdad of “severe consequences” if it continues.
“The United States provided equipment and training to the government of Iraq to fight [Islamic State] and secure itself from external threats – not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States,” McCain said.
- 17:23 GMT
Hundreds of people in Kirkuk took to the streets to celebrate the takeover of the city by Iraqi government forces. A video posted on social media shows a group of people with Iraqi flags greeting government troops in front of the city’s governorate building.
Another video from the scene shows the Iraqi Army dismantling billboards left behind by the Peshmerga, while onlookers cheer.
The majority of demonstrators are reportedly of Arab or Turkmen origin, while thousands of ethnic Kurds fled the city alongside the Peshmerga forces. Some ethnic Kurds, however, also appear to be welcoming the government troops.
- 17:00 GMT
Kirkuk police have imposed an overnight curfew on the city, prohibiting the movement of people and vehicles until 7am on Tuesday, Al-Sumaria TV channel reported. The police urged the people who fled the city amid the takeover by the Iraqi government army to return to their homes, stating that the security situation remains “stable.”
The police statement echoed the call voiced by the interim governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Jubouri, who urged locals to return to their homes.
- 16:19 GMT
US-led coalition forces are near Kirkuk but were not present when Iraqi government troops exchanged fire with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Pentagon said. The US servicemen are not “threatened or in any kind of danger,” the Pentagon stated, as cited by Reuters. The US Department of Defense urged the Iraqi Kurdish forces and central government to engage in dialogue and avoid confrontation, while expressing support for a unified Iraq.
The dispute between the Kurds and Iraqi government does not hamper the US-led coalition’s ability to fight Islamic State in Syria, the Pentagon stressed.
- 15:42 GMT
- 15:38 GMT
Turkey’s Cabinet has halted flights to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters following a weekly meeting of the government. Ankara has also decided to begin procedures to return control over the main border crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan to the central Iraqi authorities.
- 14:30 GMT
The US Embassy in Baghdad has issued a warning to its citizens over the ongoing “Kirkuk security operations” urging them to “maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance their personal security” while working and living in Iraq.
“US Mission Iraq advises its citizens that the Government of Iraq launched security operations in the vicinity of Kirkuk City. US citizens located in these areas who are unable or unwilling to depart are advised to shelter in place,” the warning reads.
- 13:00 GMT
Kurdish authorities are considering whether to shut down oil production at the Kirkuk fields, Iraq’s North Oil Company spokesman has told Reuters, adding that the state company had asked central government to intervene in order to keep the crude flowing.
“The oil ministry warned the Kurdish authorities not to attempt any action that would cause crude oil flow disruption from Kirkuk oilfield,” the spokesman said.
“We are coordinating with the central government and oil ministry to ask security forces to intervene and prevent Kurdish crews from mismanaging production operations at the Kirkuk oilfield.”
- 12:32 GMT
The US-led anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition claimed that the maneuvers “of military vehicles and personnel” in the vicinity of Kirkuk “so far have been coordinated movements, not attacks,” while the clashes between Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces were a mere “misunderstanding.”
“Coalition forces and advisers are not supporting Government of Iraq or Kurdistan Regional Government activities near Kirkuk, but are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire during predawn hours of darkness October 16. We believe the engagement this morning was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions,” the coalition said in a statement.