Monday, February 19, 2018
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Baghdad: Iraqi forces in full control of Kirkuk

Iraqi forces capture governorate building in central Kirkuk with no opposition from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Kurdish flag in Kirkuk

The Iraqi army says it has taken full control of Kirkuk following a major advance on Kurdish-held territories.

The federal government in Baghdad and sources inside the city said on Monday that Iraqi security forces had captured the governorate building in the centre of Kirkuk.

According to security forces, troops moved inside the building with no opposition from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

A dozen Humvees from Iraq's US-trained Counterterrorism Service arrived at the building and took position in the vicinity, alongside the local city police.

There was no immediate comment from Kurdish authorities.

The advance was part of a major operation to retake the oil-rich province amid an escalating dispute in the wake of a controversial September 25 referendum on Kurdish secession that Baghdad had declared illegal.

The Iraqi army said on Monday it has seized control of the city's airport, in addition to an oil field, the strategic K1 military base and the Taza Khormatu district southeast of Kirkuk.

As the Iraqi army advanced, thousands of people, including civilians and Peshmerga fighters, fled the city.

Kurdish forces had previously vowed to defend the city, and for three days they were locked in an armed standoff with Iraqi government troops and allied Iranian-backed paramilitaries known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) on the outskirts of the disputed city.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of oil-rich Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled from a major offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in 2014.

Since then, there has not been an agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government in Baghdad about who should control the area - and benefit from its vast oil wealth.

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