Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Friday to halt security troops advancement towards areas evacuated by Kurdish Peshmerga troops in Kirkuk, hours after he denied intentions for an invasion of the province.
Russian Sputnik agency reported that Abadi ordered to halt the entry of security forces into Kirkuk for 48 hours after Peshmerga lowered their flags and emptied their barracks in Taza and Bashir villages.
Abadi denied Thursday warnings by Kurdistan officials that his government was preparing for a military operation to invade Kirkuk. “We will not use our army forces against our people or fight a war against our Kurdish citizens”, Abadi said during a meeting with officials in Anbar province on Thursday. He had, however, made earlier calls on Kurdish troops to cooperate with Iraqi forces once they take over security in Kirkuk.
Baghdad had demanded Kurdistan to hand over security in Kirkuk to Iraqi forces following a political crisis that erupted when Kurdistan held a referendum in September in which 92% voted for independence from Iraq.
On Thursday, Kurdistan Security Council warned that Iraq was preparing for a militray offensive in Kirkuk.
“We are alarmed by significant Iraqi military and PMF build up in Bashir and Taz in South Kirkuk, incl tanks, artillery, humvees and mortars,” the council tweeted. “These forces are approx 3km from Peshmerga forces. Intelligence shows intention to takeover nearby oil fields, airport and military base.”
“…heavily armed Peshmerga units deployed in and around Kirkuk, ready very strongly to respond to any possible military attacks by PMF,” Hemin Hawrami, a political assistant to Kurdish President Masud Barzani, tweeted.