Iraqi Kurds withdraw from area near Kirkuk

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AFP: Iraq army launches operation to retake disputed Kirkuk

Meanwhile, a Justice Ministry official from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), denounced the Iraqi court's warrants as "politically motivated", stressing that Baghdad's judicial system has no jurisdiction in Kurdistan, which is allegedly ruled by its own legal body.

Lt. Gen. Wasta Rasul said Friday his forces evacuated positions southwest of the city, while an officer in the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division said his forces had moved into positions left by the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, in the same area.

Al-Abadi said: "I warn of the actions of the region's military mobilization in Kirkuk, it is unsafe". Iraq's military command rushed to issue a statement denying media reports that it had commenced operations for the city.

There is concern about a meeting between Iraqi and Kurdish militaries as a result of increased tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, a cause of a separatist referendum held last September.

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The Kirkuk province is not officially included in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it is in fact partially controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga detachments.

A chief aide to Masoud Barzani, president of northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), claimed that Hashd al-Shaabi fighters were planning to attack oil wells in Kirkuk.

Baghdad remains bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate Kirkuk province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back.

The central government of Baghdad lost control of the area in June 2014 after the occupation of Daesh, an acronym in Arabic for an Islamic state, and then Iraqi Kurdish forces (Peshmerga) evicted the terrorists and resumed it.

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