Iraqi forces 'launch major Kirkuk operation'

Barzani complained to the United States Coalition should be notified

The Kurdistan Region Security Council said that Iraqi forces and members of the Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) - paramilitary units largely made up of Iran-trained Shia militias - were advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a "major operation".

Despite Mr.al-Abadi's statements, Iraq's central government has made moves to isolate the Kurdish region with a series of measures in recent weeks, including banning worldwide flights from landing there and demanding a halt to all crude oil sales by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

"We are soldiers; we will carry out the orders issued by him without discussion."Earlier, Baghdad said the presence in Kirkuk of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the outlawed Turkish militant group, was "a serious escalation that can not be tolerated" and "represents a declaration of war". The General Command of Peshmerga Forces released a statement saying the situation "has risky indications for war".

Both Iraqi military and Peshmerga forces have been operating in close proximity in northern Iraq in the USA -backed war against the Islamic State group.

Earlier, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said he would never use military force against Iraqi Kurdistan; The goal is, he said, to free the country from the refugee extremists in the north of the country.

An Iraqi military official denied that troop movements around Kirkuk were part of an all-out assault on the Peshmerga. Ever since, Kirkuk has become a point of contention between Baghdad and Kurdish officials in Erbil.

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The two sides have been at loggerheads since the Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in the referendum last month that Baghdad rejected as illegal.

The central government of Baghdad lost control of the area in June 2014 after the occupation of Daesh, an acronym in Arabic for an Islamic state, and then Iraqi Kurdish forces (Peshmerga) evicted the terrorists and resumed it.

Oil-rich Kirkuk is claimed by both the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad.

Iraq's central government responded by imposing a ban on direct worldwide flights to Kurdistan's airports, placing severe restrictions on Kurdish-owned banks and threatening to end the region's independent crude oil sales.

The referendum was held in three autonomous provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, but also in nearby Kurdish-held areas including Kirkuk.

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