BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:40 A.M.) – Iraqi forces gained full control over Kirkuk, Friday, following a fierce three-hour battle with Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers at the Altun Kupri district.
A Peshmerga fighter stated that Iraqi forces aimed to “take over Erbil” but the Kurdish soldiers “will not allow that to happen”. According to him, some the militants affiliated to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL/ISIS) were armed with the weapons, and stressed that Kurds “had causalities and martyrs today by American weapons” in the battle with the Iraqi army.
Another Peshmerga fighter stated that the aim of Iraqi military was to “disturb the peaceful security situation of Kurdistan”.
The oil-rich region of Kirkuk is claimed by both Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad.
The past week has seen Iraqi forces take over much-disputed territory previously controlled by the Peshmerga. The escalation came in the wake of the Kurdish independence referendum, which Baghdad deemed unconstitutional.