Iraqi security forces have begun an operation against Kirkuk. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claimed, in a statement, that troops were imposing security on the area “in cooperation with the people of Kirkuk and the Peshmerga.” However, it is likely the operation is in response to the September 25 Kurdish independence referendum.
Earlier, Iraqi authorities claimed that vast areas had been recaptured from Kurdish forces, particularly oil fields and the K1 airbase. The Peshmerga had taken control of these sites in 2014 shortly after the Islamic State militants chased the Iraqi Army out of Kirkuk. The Kurds deny they’ve lost these locations. Conflicting and unconfirmed reports of sporadic artillery fire, shootings, and looting were reported on Sunday.
The Iraqi government accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of declaring war by bringing in guerrilla fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.), which has been waging war against Turkey for decades. The charge may give Turkey the leverage it wants to deploy more troops into Iraq. General Jabar Yawer, Secretary General of the Peshmerga ministry said there may be some P.K.K. sympathizers among voluntary personnel, but no actual guerrillas are present.
Before the latest troop movements, Kurdish leadership from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the opposition Patriotic Union of Kurdistan met in Dukan. Among the attendees were Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi President and former Kurdish Prime Minister Fuad Masum, and Hero Talabani, the widow of Jalal Talabani. Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3, was a former president of Iraq. The group rejected calls to cancel the referendum results and invited Baghdad to engage in dialogue.
Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, who is the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an advisor to the Shi’ite militias, is also in Kurdistan for talks.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry announced the Iranian border was shut down at their request, but Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said he was unaware of the closure. Separately, Iranian MP Mohammad-Javad Nobandegani said Tehran wanted to keep the closure a secret.
At least 15 people were killed and 14 were wounded:
In Kirkuk, seven militiamen were killed in the Hay al-Sana area.
Two policemen were killed in a blast in Badush.
A bomb at a Yusufiya market killed one person and wounded seven more.
Gunmen killed a health department employee in Hawi.
In Tuz Khormato, mortars wounded the son of Naiazi Maamar, Rapporteur of the House of Representatives.
Three suicide bombers were killed in Ramadi.