Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

Iraq PM denies attack plan as tensions rise with Kurds

Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

"We deny reports circulated by media outlets about the launch of military operations south of Kirkuk", the army's Joint Operations Command said in a statement broadcast on state television.

The Iraqi Army's military operation south of the Kirkuk province is not directed against the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary forces, an aide to the governor of the disputed province, Abdurrahman Talabani, said.

Rudaw News, quoting Kurdish Vice President Kosrat Rasul, says the reinforcements were sent to Kirkuk in response to threats from Baghdad to attack the oil-rich city.

Some local and worldwide news outlets had earlier reported that the Iraqi army had launched fresh operations in southern Kirkuk aimed at capturing areas now held by forces loyal to the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

The Kirkuk province is not officially included in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it is in fact partially controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga detachments.

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The Kirkuk province along with parts of the provinces of Nineveh, Saladin (northern Iraq) and Diyala (eastern Iraq) are disputed between Baghdad and the KRG and inhabited by a mixture of ethnic Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.

The alert came after the Kurdish authorities accused the Iraqi government of massing forces in readiness for an offensive to seize Kurdish-held oilfields around Kirkuk, as tensions soar after a vote for independence on September 25.

Hours before it was to begin, the northern Iraqi administration mobilized additional Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk with a view to securing the illegal referendum.

Mr Hawrami urged the global community to intervene and call on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to "order PMF to pull back if he can or if they listen to him".

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