Iraqi forces, which include the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service and the Iranian-backed mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, began an attack on Peshmerga-controlled areas south and west of Kirkuk on Sunday at midnight. Monday afternoon, Iraqi forces entered the city of Kirkuk and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces take down the Kurdistan flag in the disputed areas and hoist only the Iraqi banner.
Iraqi forces have taken control of the K-1 military base, Baba Gurgur oil field, the governor's office, the airport, and key infrastructure and roads.
Thousands of civilians have fled the city, heading towards Erbil and Sulaimani in the Kurdistan Region.
The attack by the Iraqi forces ordered by Abadi follows weeks of punitive measures taken by Baghdad against Kurdistan in response to the September 25 independence referendum that saw 92.7 percent of people voting to leave Iraq, despite Iraqi opposition.
The following is a timeline as events are unfolded.
2:11 a.m., October 17, 2017
UN calls on Iraq-Kurdistan for de-escalation, avoid violence
The UN Secretary General António Guterres is following the events in Kirkuk “extremely closely,” the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told Rudaw.
He called on both the Kurdish and Iraqi governments “to do whatever they can to ensure a de-escalation, avoid any further clashes or violence.”
The UN officials said that thousands of people have already fled the province because of the Monday clashes between the Iraqi-backed forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga.
1:56 a.m. October 17, 2017
US State Department: ‘very concerned’ of Kirkuk confrontation
The United States State Department has said that they are monitoring the situation in Kirkuk where they are “very concerned” about the reports of a confrontation, following a military incursion of the Iraqi forces into the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Monday.
“We are monitoring the situation in Kirkuk closely and are very concerned by reports of a confrontation,” a State Department official said, Reuters reported.
“We are engaged with all parties in Iraq to de-escalate tension.”
Earlier in the day, the US Embassy in Iraq requesting that the military action cease “immediately” and that all parties should remain focused on the fight against ISIS while US officials work with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ease tensions.
12:25 am, October 17, 2017
Iraq PM receives messages of support for Iraqi unity from world leaders
Following Monday’s events, Iraqi PM Abadi had a number of phone calls with international parties, expressing their support for Iraqi unity.
Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, discussed the clashes in Kirkuk with Abadi and “stressed the importance to avoid the use of force and to seek dialogue in order to preserve Iraq’s unity and long-term stability while upholding the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution.”
Mogherini is also vice president of the European Commission. Expressing concern about reports of military operations carried out by federal forces, she told Abadi that she “expects all sides to sit down together and engage in dialogue,” according to a statement from the EU.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and King Salman of Saudi Arabia both expressed their support for the unity of Iraq in phone calls with Abadi, according to the readouts from the office of the Iraqi PM.
Gabriel said all sides should focus on the war against ISIS, adding that they had warned Erbil about the consequences of the independence vote.
“He had told Mr. Barzani that he will lose European support and German support if he went ahead with the issue of the referendum,” the statement from Abadi quoted the German FM as saying.
There has been no immediate statement from Gabriel’s office.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia said his country stands behind Baghdad and that it wants to have the best relations with the Iraqi government.
“King Salman expressed the kingdom’s support for Iraq’s unity and its rejection of the results of the referendum that took place in the Kurdistan Region,” the Iraqi statement read.
PM Abadi told King Salman that the purpose of events in Kirkuk was for the central government of Iraq to impose its authority in the disputed areas, according to the Iraqi constitution, by “re-deploying” its forces.
What happened in Kirkuk was the result of a “quick and smooth operation that did not result in any casualties or injuries,” the statement claimed.
9:43 pm, October 16, 2017
Trump refuses to take sides, Iran praises Iraqi forces in Kirkuk
US President Donald Trump has spoken out against Monday’s confrontation in Kirkuk, but has declined to condemn either party.
“We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that their clashing,” he said at a press conference. “We’ve had for many years very good relationship with the Kurds, as you know. And we’ve also been on the side of Iraq. Even though we should have never been in there in the first place – we should never have been there. But we’re not taking sides in that battle.”
President Trump taking questions from the media on Monday. Photo: White House video
Meanwhile, Iran’s Ali Akbar Velayati, member of the country’s Expediency Council, said the Iraqi forces, by taking Kirkuk from the Kurdish forces, have foiled a dangerous plot against regional security.
“Barzani’s, and behind the scenes Israel’s, objective was seizing Kirkuk’s oil wells in favour of Israel,” Velayati stated, according to Tasnim News.
This was a dangerous plot that Iraq has now ended, he said.
Ankara will close airspace, hand over control of border to Baghdad
Ankara has decided to close Turkey’s airspace to flights in and out of the Kurdistan Region and will begin to work with the Baghdad government to hand over control of the Ibrahim Khalil border gate to Iraqi federal authorities, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The decision was made on the recommendation of Turkey’s National Security Council.
Peshmerga commander says Peshmerga withdrawal from Kirkuk was no ‘mistake’
Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, commander of the Peshmerga’s 70 force, told Rudaw the decision to withdraw from Kirkuk was not a “mistake” as they wanted to protect the lives of Peshmerga soldiers.
Mustafa added Iranians led the fight against the Peshmerga in Kirkuk.
“I bear all the responsibilities – in success and failure,” said Mustafa, who led a large number of Peshmerga forces in south Kirkuk.
He dismissed claims that there was “an agreement” between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army to allow them to enter the city without a fight.
“The Iraqi forces outnumbered the Peshmerga,” he said.
Hashd al-Shaabi beheaded Peshmerga in Kirkuk: Rudaw reporter
A number of Peshmerga were beheaded by Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia during confrontations to capture the city of Kirkuk on Monday, according to a Rudaw reporter who witnessed the events.
Rudaw’s Hevidar Ahmed reporting from the scene revealed that, among the Peshmerga killed by Hashd al-Shaabi, some were beheaded.
Ahmed, who reported on the course of clashes between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, said that in the beginning the Peshmerga put up a fierce defense. But the Hashd al-Shaabi widened their advance, at which point many Peshmerga were wounded and killed.
He saw the bodies of as many as 10 Peshmerga piled into the back of a pick-up truck. They had all been beheaded.
Wounded Peshmerga were put into another vehicle.
He said the Peshmerga were beheaded by a group of Hashd al-Shaabi trained after the Mosul operation started last year.
Inside Kirkuk, Hashd al-Shaabi have set up security checkpoints inspecting civilians.
Ahmed said he saw instances of supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) being permitted to pass, but others linked with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were disarmed and insulted.
Ahmed also said there were looting and burning of Kurdish homes in Tuz Khurmatu by the Hashd al-Shaabi. He reported that 150 Kurdish houses were looted and 15 burned.
He added the bulk of Kurdish families from Khurmatu had fled to Erbil and Sulaimani.
As an eyewitness, Ahmed said much of the frontline was abandoned by the Peshmerga without a fight.
US Congressman warns could pull funding if Baghdad does not end attacks on Kurds
US Congressman Trent Franks condemned the attacks on Kurdish forces in Kirkuk and has urged the US to protect the Kurds against Iranian aggression.
“The Hashd al-Shaabi has shown its true colors. They are not interested in the collective security of Iraq and the Middle East,” Franks wrote in a published statement Monday evening, describing the Shiite force as a “pawn of the corrupt regime in Tehran.”
Franks warned the US could pull its funding if Iraqi PM Abadi did not live up to promises to prevent attacks on the Kurds “and prove Baghdad is not the puppet of Tehran.”
He reiterated earlier statements, urging the US to support Kurdistan’s bid for independence.
The US, under President Donald Trump, has taken a harsher stance against Iran. This week, the US slapped additional sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards.
Addressing Abadi, Franks said the US “cannot in good conscience send money to an Iranian patsy working to subvert American interests.”
British MP blames Iran for the violence in Kirkuk
Jack Lopresti, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan, issued the following statement, pointing out the irony of Iranian-backed forces using American weapons to attack the Kurds:
“The terrible events overnight in Kirkuk are mainly made in Iran. The physical presence of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani in the Kirkuk area proves that in spades and even the Iraqi government acknowledges that he is an adviser to the Shia militia. Iranian hardliners are seeking as ever to destabilise and control all around to preserve their malign influence and keep America and its allies diverted. It is supremely ironic that Iranian pawns are able to make use of American battle tanks to attack brave allies of America and Britain. The urgent priority is for the West to intervene to freeze conflict and encourage dialogue so that Erbil and Baghdad can resolve their differences without malevolent Iranian stirring of the pot.”
Crowds in Kirkuk wave Iraqi flags and cheer as the Kurdistan flag is taken down.
US Senator McCain warns of ‘severe consequences’ for ‘misuse’ of American arms against Kurds
US Senator John McCain, who is also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has issued a statement of concern about Iraqi forces using US-supplied arms to attack a “valuable” US partner.
“The United States provided equipment and training to the Government of Iraq to fight ISIS and secure itself from external threats—not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States,” he wrote.
“Make no mistake, there will be severe consequences if we continue to see American equipment misused in this way.”
He also expressed concern about reports of Iranian involvement in the ongoing conflict in Kirkuk.
“I am deeply concerned by media reports of military advances by Iraqi government forces against Kurdish positions near Kirkuk. I am especially concerned by media reports that Iranian and Iranian-backed forces are part of the assault,” he wrote.
He called for Iraq to take “immediate steps” to cease its advances and for the two governments to “engage in a dialogue about the Kurdish people’s desire for greater autonomy from Baghdad at an appropriate time and the need to halt hostilities immediately.”
Kurdish mayor of Khurmatu removed from post
After the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi took control of Tuz Khurmatu, the governor of Salahaddin appointed a Shiite Arab as mayor and removed Shalal Abdul, a Kurd, from the post.
Turkey’s security council calls for closure of airspace, border crossing
Turkey’s National Security Council has called on Ankara to shut its airspace with the Kurdistan Region.
It also called for the closure of the Turkey-Kurdistan Region border crossing of Ibrahim Khalil.
HDP warns aggression against Kurdistan Region will spark a ‘regional war’
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party HDP has called for a cessation of hostilities in Kirkuk, warning that continued aggression will spark a greater war.
“Trying to seize the will of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan using military methods will ignite a new regional war,” HDP stated on Twitter. “The Iraqi government should stop its attempt to invade Kirkuk, and diplomatic channels should immediately be employed.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered Iraqi forces to take down the Kurdistan flag in disputed areas and hoist only Iraq’s. His order came after the army announced it has taken full control of Kirkuk, according to al Jazeera.
Oil exports continue, despite clashes
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will not stop oil exports despite confrontations between the Peshmerga and Iraqi armed forces in Kirkuk, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) announced in a tweet.
“Contrary to some irresponsible rumours, oil is still flowing through the export pipeline. The KRG will take no steps to stop that flow,” read a tweet from the MNR.
Responding to a statement from Iraq’s oil minister urging the KRG to ensure oil exports can continue, the MNR tweeted, “Despite the politics, interruption to oil flow will not occur and certainly will not be done by us.”
US-led Coalition says it will not support Iraqis or Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk
The US-led Global Coalition states that the “engagement” between the Iraqi and Kurdish forces on Monday near Kirkuk were not “attacks” but a “misunderstanding.”
The Kurdish Peshmerga, a Coalition ally in the war against ISIS since 2014, has said Iraqi advancement was an attack and a “declaration of war” on the people of Kurdistan.
“We believe the engagement this morning was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions,” the Coalition said in a statement on Monday.
“The Coalition is monitoring movements of military vehicles and personnel in the vicinity of Kirkuk. These movements of military vehicles, so far, have been coordinated movements, not attacks.”
It said that they will stay neutral as the two armies have been exchanging fire, including with heavy weapons, south and west of Kirkuk since at least Sunday at midnight.
“Coalition forces and advisors are not supporting Government of Iraq or Kurdistan Regional Government activities near Kirkuk, but are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire during predawn hours of darkness Oct. 16.”
The Coalition strongly urges all sides to avoid escalatory actions, it said.
"We continue to advocate dialogue between Iraqi and Kurdish authorities. All parties must remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy, ISIS, in Iraq,” said Maj. Gen. Robert White, Commanding General of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Coalition is committed to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and is against any action that distracts from our mission, the statement concluded.
The Peshmerga General Command, in a statement issued on Monday, said that Iraqi forces, including the Hashd, used American weapons they received for the war against ISIS.
It continued to say the Hashd al-Shaabi forces affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force organized the attacks.
PUK rejects news that certain party leaders ordered Peshmerga to withdraw from Kirkuk
Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a senior leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and wife of deceased party leader Jalal Talabani, said in a statement following incidents in Kirkuk that her family members who wield immense power within the PUK, have not ordered Peshmerga forces to withdraw from several key areas in south Kirkuk in the face of the advancing Iraqi army and Iranian backed-Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
She said her family members including Bafel Talabani, Aras Sheikh Jangi, Qubad Talabani, Polad Talabani, and Lahur Talabany are on the forefronts and have not withdrawn.
It was reported by Kurdish media outlets that three leading figures of the late Jalal Talabani family including Bafel Talabani, Lahur Talabany, and Aras Sheikh Jangi had ordered Peshmerga forces of the PUK at several key positions to withdraw and let the Shiite forces and the Iraqi army take them over.
She said her party has been struggling since its foundation for self-determination rights for the people of Kurdistan and is a main protector and advocator of "the Jerusalem of Kurdistan."
She added that Kirkuk has now faced an “international conspiracy” and the PUK Peshmerga “have been bravely defending the city.”
She also said they had ramped up all efforts over the past few days to prevent the ignition of this fight in coordination with the US-led global coalition, Iraq, and neighboring countries in order to protect Kirkuk.
“What we really feared, unfortunately happened last night,” she added.
Turkish FM: ‘Ready to cooperate with Iraq’, ‘terminate PKK in Kirkuk’
Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday they were ready to stand by Baghdad in order to provide peace and stability in the country amid ongoing conflict in Kirkuk as well as to end the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) they claim to be in Kirkuk.
“We once again emphasize the importance we attach to the protection of Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity,” the written statement read, as reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News. “We also underline our readiness for any kind of cooperation with the Iraqi government on the termination of the PKK presence in Iraqi territories.”
Ankara released the statement as the Iraqi army, along with the Iranian-backed mainly Shiite Hashd al Shaabi, launched an offensive against the Kurdish Peshmerga controlling the ethnically diverse oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The Foreign Ministry also stated that it is closely following moves made by the Iraqi government for the “establishment of the constitutional order in Kirkuk,” which also has a large Turkmen population.
“We welcome the Iraqi government’s statement that no tolerance will be shown to PKK members in Kirkuk and that the mobilization of these groups will be considered an act of war,” the statement read.
The Foreign Ministry also threatened the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) against making “another mistake” by allowing PKK to remain in the region, warning that the KRG “will be held responsible if it lets the PKK find shelter.”
“Turkey will stand with the Iraqi government in its steps that aim to establish lasting peace and stability in the country,” it added.
The United States Embassy in Baghdad released a statement on Monday afternoon concerning the ongoing violence in Kirkuk, requesting that the military action cease “immediately” and that all parties should remain focused on the fight against ISIS while US officials work with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ease tensions.
The statement reads as follows:
“We are very concerned by reports of violence in Kirkuk and deplore any loss of life. We call on all parties to immediately cease military action and restore calm while we continue to work with officials from the central and regional governments to reduce tensions and avoid further clashes. We support the peaceful exercise of joint administration by the central and regional governments, consistent with the Iraqi Constitution in all disputed areas. ISIS remains the true enemy of Iraq, and we urge all parties to remain focused on finishing the liberation of their country from menace.”
Peshmerga command: Iraqi military attack on Kirkuk is ‘declaration of war’
The Peshmerga General Command has said in a statement that the attack on Kirkuk by the Iranian Quds-backed Iraqi forces and the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi is “a flagrant declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan,” and warned that the government of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should pay a “heavy price” for initiating the conflict.
It said that the military incursion into the Peshmerga-controlled areas in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk is in retaliation for the people of Kurdistan “who have asked for freedom,” a reference to the independence vote held last month that saw 92.7 percent of the people voting to leave Iraq.
The Peshmerga Command also accused some of the Kurdish commanders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), saying they were complicit when the Iraqi forces made rapid advances against the positions of Kurdish security forces, including an oil field and key infrastructure in the province. The PUK has denied the accusations.
It continued to say that the Iraqi forces, including the Hashd, used American weapons they received for the war against ISIS.
Peshmerga still hold Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields
Halgurd Hikmat, media officer of the Peshmerga Ministry, told Rudaw that the Peshmerga forces have stayed at the Havana and Bai Hassan, two major oilfields in Kirkuk defending it from the attacking Iraqi forces.
He added Peshmerga forces have remained at their posts in west Kirkuk positions, but the eastern fronts were abandoned.
“The Peshmerga will certainly reorganize its forces,” he said of counter-attacks against the advancing Iraqi armed forces.
Iraqi PM appoints an Arab governor for Kirkuk
Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, has named an Arab politician named Rakan Saeed to replace Najmaldin Karim as the governor of Kirkuk.
In response to Karim’s strong endorsement for the independence referendum which was held in the city on September 25, the Iraqi parliament last month voted to remove Karim from his post.
Saeed is currently leader of the Arabic Council in Kirkuk.
The Arab political parties formed the Arabic Council in June 2016 as a ‘political umbrella’ to mobilize Arab parties in the city.
The advancing Iraqi army troops and Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi are trying to cut off Kirkuk from Erbil and Sulaimani so as to prevent Peshmerga reinforcements from reaching the city of Kirkuk, according to information obtained by Rudaw reporters.
Iraqi PM on Kirkuk: I am fulfilling my ‘constitutional duty’ to defend unity of Iraq
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement that he is fulfilling his constitutional duty that entails serving the people and to “protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition due to the insistence on holding the referendum organized by those in power in the Kurdistan region in a unilateral step, while we are fighting an existential war against terrorism.”
He said that they had warned Erbil against holding the vote and about the “magnitude of the danger that will be exposed to Iraq and its people.”
He said the Kurdistan Region nonetheless went ahead with the vote by “violating the constitution,” despite calls by the international community that demanded Erbil to reconsider it.
Abadi believes that Erbil wanted to establish a state “on an ethnic and racial basis.”
He said he reassures the people of Kurdistan “and in Kirkuk in particular” that they will protect their lives, their interests, and that “We have only acted to fulfill our constitutional duty to extend the federal authority and impose security and protect the national wealth in this city, which we want to remain a city of peaceful coexistence for all Iraqis.”
It said that the Iraqi forces will protect the rule of law, while asking the Kurdish Peshmerga, as part of the Iraqi defense system to “perform their duty under the federal leadership.”
The statement concluded by calling on state employees, including the police and security forces to continue their duties in the city.
A member of the Iraqi forces sits on a river bank across from Kurdish Peshmerga positions on October 15, 2017 on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk. Photo:AFP / Ahmad al-Rubaye
Iraq would still attack even if referendum not held, Gorran
The head of Gorran’s office of Kurdistani areas (also called disputed areas) has said that Iraq would still have attacked Kirkuk even if the referendum was not held.
Ahmed Aziz, member of Gorran’s National Assembly and coordinator of the party’s office of Kurdistani areas, told Rudaw that the Hashd al-Shaabi’s attack on Kirkuk is not related to the referendum. The Hashd al-Shaabi would still attack Kirkuk even if the referendum was not held, he claimed.
Regarding the retreat of some of the Peshmerga forces, Ahmed Aziz said, “The Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk are unfortunately not unanimous.”
“The existence of these divisions is one reason behind the weakness. As far as I am concerned, the Peshmerga have fought back in some places, but the fighting has been unbalanced.”
The Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces attacked the Peshmerga on several fronts in Kirkuk, Daquq and Khurmatu last night at 11:30pm. Some PUK forces retreated without fighting.
Fighting continues in the Kirkuk area. Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces have controlled some places. The road between Baghdad and Kirkuk is closed.
Rudaw’s Hunar Ahmed tried to retrieve two Peshmerga volunteers wounded in Kirkuk amid clashes between Peshmerga forces and Iraqi army, including Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
Peshmerga informs coalition they 'spare no efforts' in protecting the people of Kurdistan
The Peshmerga Ministry informed the US-led coalition following a large-scale meeting on Monday that they will no longer choose silence against the Iraqi army's "antagonistic plots" against the people of Kurdistan.
The Peshmerga also presented a summary of last night’s events, which have been ongoing through today with Hashd al-Shaabi, the Iraqi army, and the Federal Police against the people of Kurdistan.
The Peshmerga Ministry explained in the meeting that the advancing Iraqi armed forces and Shiite militia have been using advanced weapons supplied to them by Coalition partners showing “no value for the unity of the people and sovereignty of the Iraqi land.”
“The Peshmerga will no longer choose silence and will spare no efforts in protecting the land and people of Kurdistan.”
“The Iraqi government, Iraqi military commanders and those supporting them are to blame for the declaration of this war,” the ministry stated.
The Coalition representatives stressed dialogue to resolve political stalemates in Iraq without the use of arms.
They said they would closely monitor the situation informing their superiors of any eventualities.
Iraq controls oil field, North Oil Company
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has said that Iraqi forces are now in control of the North Oil Company, Laylan town, and Baba Gurgur oil field near Kirkuk.
Peshmerga prepare to stage counter-attack
Halgurd Hikmat, spokesperson of the Peshmerga Ministry, said large numbers of reinforcements sent to Kirkuk to make preparations for launching counter-attacks against the Iraqi army and mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi who have taken over some areas previously held by Kurdish security forces.
Pursuing a stronger military plan, he vowed they will “regain control of all of the lost areas.”
Hikmat added “Since 2014, the Peshmerga has given most of the martyrs in areas which were unfortunately left behind,” referring to areas that have been taken by Iraqi forces.
He explained that “There was no order by the Peshmerga Ministry for any unit or force of the Peshmerga to withdraw.”
He added that any force who withdrew will be investigated by the Peshmerga “military court” and the ministry’s investigation committee.
The Kurdistan political leadership and the people of Kurdistan will not accept aggression by the Iraqi army and Hashd, he said.
He assured the people of Kirkuk that “there is no agenda or plan by the Peshmerga Ministry to leave Kirkuk and the people of the heart of Kurdistan.”
He added that they have coordination with the US-led coalition regarding events in Kirkuk.
Speaking of the presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hikmat said the coalition “will not accept foreign interventions” in Iraq.
He described today’s events in Kirkuk as “the beginning of a new political military phase.”
“In the future phases, you will see how we will break the nose of Hashd al-Shaabi.”
K-1 military base under Iraqi control
The US-trained Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service has taken control of the K-1 military base near Kirkuk, Iraqi state TV reported.
Peshmerga and Coalition meet in Erbil to discuss Kirkuk crisis
The Kurdish Peshmerga and the US-led Global Coalition are having a meeting in Erbil as the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces have been engaged in fighting south and west of Kirkuk since midnight on Sunday, Halgurd Hikmat, the Peshmerga spokesperson, said.
He said that the Kurdistan Region has deployed further troops to the oil-rich Kirkuk, about 100 km south of Erbil.
The Global Coalition said earlier in the day that they are “closely monitoring [situation] near Kirkuk,” and that they urge all sides to avoid “escalatory actions.”
Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for coalition, stated that the main focus should be the fight against ISIS.
Armed and unarmed civilians have blocked the main roads inside Kirkuk, preventing Peshmerga military vehicles from retreating from the battlefield after clashes erupted with Iraqi army and Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces at dawn on Monday.
Iraq claims it controls key infrastructure in Kirkuk
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has said they have taken control of several key positions, including important infrastructure as part of its operation “to impose security in Kirkuk.”
It said that they are now in control of Kahlid Bridge, the road between Riyadh and Maktab Khalid, Maryam Beg Bridge and the road between Rashad and Maryam Beg, towards the Tikrit intersection.
Thee industrial zones, Tarklan, and Baiji town have also came under its control since Sunday night, the statement continued.
It added that a key gas installation, the Kirkuk power plant, and a refinery near the gas installation are among those places it took from the Kurdish security forces and that their advances are continuing.
Rudaw cannot independently verify any of the above claims. The Kurdish Peshmerga, however, confirmed that they left Tal Alwad and Taza Khurmatu in the early hours of the morning.
Colonel Kawa Mala Parwez, the director of Asayesh or security forces in Tuz Khurmatu, has said that the Hashd al-Shaabi forces have entered Kurdish neighborhoods of the town due to the retreat of some Peshmerga forces.
“We are defending. But unfortunately, some Peshmerga forces have retreated. This has made it possible for the Hashd al-Shaabi forces to enter Kurdish neighborhoods of Tuz Khurmatu,” he said.
After issuing threats for several days, the Hashd al-Shaabi forces attacked Peshmerga lines on several fronts in south Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu. Some forces affiliated with the PUK have pulled out without fighting. Peshmerga reinforcements and scores of civilians from Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimani traveled to Kirkuk to assist.
“Iraqi and the Hashd al-Shaabi forces who are associated with Iran attacked the Peshmerga south of Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu on several fronts, using Humvees and American weapons. The Peshmerga forces responded to them and destroyed five American Humvees,” the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council said in a statement about the attacks.
A significant number of Peshmerga forces from Erbil have been brought in to Kirkuk as reinforcements for existing forces fighting against advancing Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi armed forces, a source told Rudaw.
KRG Security Council: Peshmerga destroy US weapons used by Iraqi forces
Kurdistan Region Security Council has said in a statement that "Peshmerga Forces have destroyed at least five US Humvees used by PMF [Popular Mobilization Forces.]"
The following is the full text of the statement:
"At approximately 2330hrs Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces advanced from Taza Khormatu in South Kirkuk in a major, multi-pronged operation intended to enter the city and take over K1 abase and oil fields.
At approximately 0230hrs they attacked Peshmerga Forces from two fronts in the Taza-Kirkuk intersection and Maryam Bag bridge, both in South of Kirkuk, using US military equipment, including Abrams tanks and Humvees.
Significant Forces have also been deployed to Maktab Khalid intersection in South West of Kirkuk as part of the operation.
Peshmerga Forces have destroyed at least five US Humvees used by PMF. Peshmerga will continue to defend Kurdistan, its people and interests. This was an unprovoked attack following days of Iraqi military deployments to Kurdistan’s borders."
Iraqi forces, Shiite militia engage in fighting with Peshmerga south of Kirkuk
Iraqi forces and mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi have started to move towards Peshmerga controlled areas south and west of Kirkuk Monday night, Iraqi and Kurdish officials have said.
Clashes erupted on the Taza Khurmatu front, south of Kirkuk, a Peshmerga commander told Rudaw, with both sides exchanging fire involving heavy weaponry.
Peshmerga forces have left their positions in Tal Alwad, southwest of Kirkuk without any fighting, and Taza Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk after fierce fighting, Rudaw's reporters said.
A Peshmerga unit is now being deployed back to Tal Alwad.
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, said that the Peshmerga left the two positions due to "internal issues" among officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the dominant party in Kirkuk with its own security forces and Peshmerga. He also claimed that there were some “ambiguous dealings” that resulted in the withdrawal.
He said that only the forces under the command of Kurdistan’s Vice President Kosrat Rasul fought against the Iraqi forces.
Some Peshmerga fighters and civilians who took up arms say that they were betrayed by some of the Peshmerga commanders who ordered the troops to abandon their posts.
Although some of the Peshmerga interviewed by Rudaw initially refused to withdraw, they eventually did.
Kamil Salayi, Kirkuk mayor, told Rudaw that the situation is now calm in Taza Khurmatu. He said it was the Iraqi forces who first initiated the clashes there.
Peshmerga claim that they destroyed four Iraqi vehicles. A Kurdish official said that they have pushed back Iraqi forces twice since the fighting began between the two sides in Taza Khurmatu.
Shalal Abdul, mayor of Khurmatu, some 75 km south of Kirkuk, told Rudaw that while they chose not to return fire from the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi on previous days, they have chosen on Monday to fight back.
The objectives for the Iraqi advances are K-1 military base, Kirkuk airport, and oil fields that are under Kurdish control south and west of Kirkuk, the Kurdistan Region Security Council stated.
Lt. Col. Salah al-Kinani of the Iraqi army’s 9th armored division told Reuters that they are on the move with the aim to control the K-1 military airbase.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, also commander-in-chief of all Kurdish armed forces, has ordered all Peshmerga units to not initiate a war with the Iraqi forces, but if attacked, then they are given the “green light to use every power” to fight against advancing forces, Hemin Hawrami, a senior assistant to President Barzani, said.
Kurdistan’s Vice President Kosrat Rasul issued a statement saying that they are entitled to the right to self-defense.
“It is unfortunate that the Iraqi forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi intend to attack Kirkuk. We want to reassure everyone that that we and the brave Peshmerga are in Kirkuk and will defend it. Though we do not want to initiate war, but we will defend ourselves with high morale and will not allow Kirkuk to be attacked. We demand the brave and strong people of Kirkuk to help the police and security forces inside the city to better protect the situation in the city.”
The Pentagon has called on Iraqi and Kurdish forces to "avoid escalatory actions” and instead seek dialogue.
"We oppose violence from any party, and urge against destabilizing actions that distract from the fight against ISIS and further undermine Iraq's stability," Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said, Reuters reported.
"We continue to support a unified Iraq," she said. "Despite the Kurdistan Regional Government's unfortunate decision to pursue a unilateral referendum, dialogue remains the best option to defuse ongoing tensions and longstanding issues, in accordance with the Iraqi constitution.”
The US State Department told Rudaw that they are monitoring the situation in Kirkuk closely and are “very concerned by reports of a confrontation. We are engaged with all parties in Iraq to de-escalate tension.”
“We support the peaceful exercise of joint GOI [Government of Iraq]-KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] authority in all disputed areas.”
Iraqi state TV claimed that the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service, the federal government, and the 9th division of the Iraqi army, have taken control of “large areas” without any confrontations, something denied by Wasta Rasul and Kamal Kirkuki, two Peshmerga commanders.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has instructed the Iraqi forces who are advancing on Kirkuk based on his orders to “protect all the people of Kirkuk,” Iraqi state TV quoted him as saying.
Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, who visited some of the civilians who have taken up arms to defend the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, said that the Peshmerga are prepared to defend the province. He also called on all able-bodied people who have their own weapons to take up arms against the Iraqi forces.
Video: Governor Karim: People are ready to "defend the land."
Vice President Kosrat Rasul deployed 3,000 more Peshmerga to Kirkuk, a Peshmerga commander told Rudaw. VP Rasul had already deployed 6,000 troops to the disputed city, claimed by both Iraq and Erbil, on Thursday night.
VP Rasul is already in Kirkuk.
Karim Nuri, a commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi, told Rudaw that any force that may be fighting against the Iraqi forces are “the same as ISIS,” whose leaders are like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS militants.
The Iraqi PM has instructed Iraqi forces “to secure bases [and] federal installations in Kirkuk province.” He also ordered the Iraqi Security Forces “to cooperate with Peshmerga and avoid confrontations, and to protect all civilians.”
Rudaw reporters have visited the Peshmerga controlled K-1 military base and Maktab Khalid where the Kurdish security forces said that they are ready to defend these areas.
The Iraqi government has called on the Kurdistan Region to cancel the results of the Kurdish independence referendum held on September 25 that saw 92.7 percent of the people vote to leave Iraq.
The vote took place in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed or Kurdistani areas under Kurdish control but claimed by Baghdad.
Video: Civilians in Kirkuk take up arms to defend the city against advancing Iraqi forces.
Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Iraq, said in a series of tweets Monday morning that Iran’s “IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps]-backed militia led by terrorist Mahdi Mohandis has begun an assault on Kirkuk,” Khalilzad said, making reference to the deputy head of the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
“Reliable reports indicate the PMF [Hashd] militia is using Abrams tanks provided by the US to the Iraqi armed forces against the Peshmerga,” Khalilzad continued, as he tagged the official account of the US presidency asking, “Shouldn’t we disable these tanks to prevent their use by Quds force proxies?”
“The Kurds need our help against IRGC backed forces,” he added.
Peshmerga intelligence shows beyond a doubt that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were among the ranks of the Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi stationed south and west of Kirkuk.
“The Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi are not the only state that is attacking us. We have intelligence with 100 percent accuracy that there are also the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guards among them,” Shwan Shamerani, commander of the Peshmerga second brigade in Kirkuk, told Rudaw on Saturday.