Kirkuk (IraqiNews.com) Dozens of Islamic State militants sneaked late Monday into a region north of Kirkuk and took control as tensions soar between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops.
Sputnik News said Tuesday, quoting security and local sources, that the militants took over Dibis, 35 kilometers north of Hawija, their former bastion which Iraqi government troops conquered earlier this month.
The source said the development came after Kurdish Peshmerga troops left their positions there, and as civilians fled the area to Sulaymaniyah and Erbil.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said Monday its forces, backed by Popular Mobilization Forces, had taken over Kirkuk’s province council, oil fields and military bases as part of an incursion ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to regain government control over the province.
The military takeover came after Baghdad declared intentions to reclaim control over regions disputed with Erbil in response to Kurdistan’s independence vote in September, which overwhelmingly backed independence from Iraq.
Kirkuk has a mixed population of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, and has been central to the political crisis that followed the controversial referendum. Iraq and Kurdistan have, for long, disputed the distribution of revenues from petroleum exported from the province’s fields.