Kurds put forces on alert for Iraq attack near Kirkuk

Iraqi government denies operation claims to Kirkuk

About 6,000 Kurdish soldiers were deployed in the disputed oil region of Kirkuk in central Iraq, for fear of an attack by the Iraqi government, local media reported Friday.

Iraqi and Peshmerga forces have been operating in close proximity in northern Iraq in the US -backed war on IS.

Some local and global news outlets had earlier reported that the Iraqi army had launched fresh operations in southern Kirkuk aimed at capturing areas now held by forces loyal to the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

They accused the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - paramilitary units dominated by Iran-trained Shia militia - of massing fighters in two mainly Shia Turkmen areas south of Kirkuk in a bid to provoke a confrontation.

"These forces are approximately three kilometers (two miles) from peshmerga frontline positions", it said.

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But Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back.

On Thursday, Kurdish peshmerga closed the two main roads from Mosul to the Kurdish cities of Arbil and Dohuk for several hours for fear of an attack in the area, Kurdish officials said.

Al-Abadi said: "I warn of the actions of the region's military mobilization in Kirkuk, it is risky".

"Kurdistan continues calling for dialogue and peaceful means to settle differences". Haidar Al-Abadi went on to call for joint administration between the Iraqi government and the KRG over the disputed areas in Kirkuk under the leadership of the federal government in Baghdad, without giving further details on how this would work. Baghdad has demanded the Kurds return to the city to federal authorities, a dispute that has escalated since the Kurds voted for independence in a non-binding referendum last month.

Peshmerga forces loyal to the KRG now dominate areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil (including Kirkuk), which they overran following Daesh's invasion of the country in mid-2014.

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