The foreign ministers of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey issued a joint statement on Thursday, criticizing the independence referendum that the Kurds are hoping to hold on Monday, September 25. They fear it will create a new regional conflict as well as undermine the effort against the Islamic State militants. Separately, the 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously came out against holding the referendum. Also, the United States warned the Kurds that holding the referendum will hurt their chances of getting a better deal from Baghdad.
The referendum appears to be having the effect that the neighboring states of Syria, Turkey, and Iran fear the most: Kurds asserting their free will. Kurds in Syria are holding their own elections tomorrow, but it is not to assert independence. They already enjoy autonomy, and these elections are to create a federal government system. In Iran, four people were arrested for displaying the Kurdistan flag.
The United Nations also adopted a resolution that will create an investigative team tasked with collecting evidence of war crimes against the Islamic State militants.
On the first day of operations against Islamic State militants in the Hawija region, 23 villages were recovered. Security forces are approaching from the north and west. The Peshmerga forces, which have long held the eastern front, are not participating. However, negotiations concerning their role appear to be ongoing. Kurdish officials say that the offensive will not affect voting.
Security forces say they have recaptured Anah in Anbar province, and operations are occurring at Tal Sufuq.
Seven villages were recaptured in the Shirqat region.
Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, reported that there are ongoing battles in the Tal Afar area.
At least 70 people were killed and 14 more were wounded:
A mass grave containing 25 bodies was found in Tal Afar.
Two tribal fighters were killed and seven more were wounded at a booby-trapped building in Adhaim.
A bomb at a sports field in Taji wounded seven people.
At least 30 militants were killed in Anah.
Airstrikes in Hawija left at least a dozen militants dead.
In Saniya, a militant emir was killed.
Read more by Margaret Griffis
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