Iraqi Forces Seize More Territory in Advance Against Kurds

A tank belonging to Iraqi army is seen in Dibis area on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Iraq October 17, 2017. (REUTERS)

The Baghdad government recaptured territory across the breadth of northern Iraq from Kurds on Tuesday, widening a sudden and dramatic campaign that has shifted the balance of power in the country almost overnight.

In the second day of a lightning government campaign to take back towns and countryside from forces of the Kurdish autonomous region, Kurdish troops known as Peshmerga pulled out of the long disputed Khanaqin area near the Iranian border.

Government troops took control of the last two oil fields in the vicinity of Kirkuk, a city of 1 million people that the Peshmerga abandoned on Monday in the face of the government advance. A Yazidi group allied to Baghdad also took control of the town of Sinjar.

The government advances have redrawn the map of northern Iraq, rolling back gains by the Kurds who infuriated Baghdad last month by holding a referendum on independence.

The Kurds govern three mountainous northern provinces of Iraq in an autonomous region, and have also held a wide crescent of additional territory in northern Iraq, much of which they captured after helping drive out ISIS fighters.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi ordered his troops on Monday to raise their flag over all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region itself. They achieved a swift victory in Kirkuk, reaching the center of the city in less than a day.

The fighting in one of Iraq’s main oil-producing areas, has helped return a risk premium to oil prices. After months of range-bound trading, benchmark Brent crude is now above $58 a barrel, up almost a third from its mid-year levels.


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