Major operation launched in Kirkuk by Iraqi forces

Iraqi forces.
(Image credit: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) escalated Sunday and early Monday in Kirkuk, a contested oil-rich region currently controlled by Kurdish authorities. After announcing a "major operation" had been launched, Baghdad said early Monday its forces have taken over "vast areas of Kirkuk," including oilfields west of the region's namesake city, while the KRG said everything in the region remains under Kurdish control.

A KRG official told Reuters that Iraqi troops were not able to get closer to Kirkuk or take away any territory from Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and the biggest battle took place south of Kirkuk, where the peshmerga and a mostly Shiite Iraqi paramilitary force exchanged artillery fire. In late September, Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence, a referendum Baghdad has called illegal.

The peshmerga and Iraqi forces are fighting the Islamic State, and the U.S. Defense Department is calling on both sides to "avoid additional escalatory actions," which would take the focus away from beating ISIS.

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