BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:15 A.M.) – Kirkuk citizens who fled the city from advancing Iraqi forces have spoken about returning home.
One said: “We left there around 3:30 pam towards Redar, then in the morning at noon again moved towards Taqtaq. We stayed the night there and today on TV and people were saying that Kirkuk is normal and now we are back hoping that nothing bad happens.”
Another local explained: “We left Kirkuk yesterday because of the clashes and the bad situation, we were not happy with what was going on. The situation was dangerous and gunfire was flying everywhere. Hopefully it is better and we are going home. We have been watching TV, and we saw situation is better that’s why we are going back home now and pray to God for the situation.”
Another Kirkuk resident said that if they needed to fight they will do so: “No we are not scared of them [Iraqi forces]. If it gets really tense, we will fight them as well. If anyone wants to harass or attack us we will take guns, fight them back and protect our families.”
On Monday, Iraqi government forces and ‘al-Hashd al-Sha’abi’, also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), entered Kirkuk, reportedly seizing several neighbourhoods.
Tensions between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan have been brewing since Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for secession in a September 25 referendum that Baghdad rejected as illegal. Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of oil-rich Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled a major offensive by the Islamic State in 2014.