Iraqi security deny siege on election employees in Kirkuk

A man walks past a campaign poster ahead of the parliamentary election in Kirkuk, Iraq May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

Kirkuk ( Iraqi security officials have denied news that election employees were trapped in Kirkuk by armed groups, saying that government forces are in control.

Maan al-Saadi, a senior security official assigned with law enforcement in Kirkuk, said in a statement that the Counter-Terrorism Service remains in charge of securing ballot boxes, stressing that the situation in the province was “stable and there is no need for worrying”.

Earlier in the day, Riyad al-Badran, a senior official at the High Elections Commission, said employees in Kirkuk were taken hostage by political groups, which caused the ballot boxes there to be blocked from the commission’s main office in Baghdad.

Kirkuk has seen tensions since the Iraqi parliamentary elections were held last Saturday, with Arabs and Turkmen opposing the results which showed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leading the results.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, initially calling for respect for results nationwide, later stated it was permissible to recount the votes manually in Kirkuk to address objections.

Kirkuk, with a mixed Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, has been at the heart of sovereignty disputes between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region authorities. Iraqi troops took over the province in October in response to a local referendum in which Kurds voted for independence from Iraq.

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