Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Kirkuk (IraqiNews.com) Kurdistan’s Peshmerga troops denied Friday they evacuated positions in Kirkuk and withdrew in the face of advancing Iraqi troops, saying they were only rearranging their deployment.
“What is being circulated across the media about Peshmerga’s withdrawal from their Kirkuk locations is totally untrue,” Alghad Press quoted Qaraman Sheikh Kamal, deputy chief of staff of operations at the Peshmerga Ministry, as saying.
He said his forces were making some replacements, denying reports that Iraqi troops had taken over locations evacuated by Peshmerga.
Wasta Rasul, a field commander of Peshmerga’s “fourth axis”, told the website that Peshmerga troops abandoned some locations for being “of no military significance”, and based on a “tactical plan”.
Shortly earlier, Sputnik agency said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered to halt security troops advancement towards areas evacuated by Kurdish Peshmerga troops in Kirkuk, hours after he denied intentions for an invasion of the province.
Sputnik said Abadi ordered to halt the entry of security forces into Kirkuk for 48 hours after Peshmerga lowered their flags and emptied their barracks in Taza and Bashir villages.
Abadi denied Thursday warnings by Kurdistan officials that his government was preparing for a military operation to invade Kirkuk.
“We will not use our army forces against our people or fight a war against our Kurdish citizens”, Abadi said during a meeting with officials in Anbar province on Thursday.
He had, however, made earlier calls on Kurdish troops to cooperate with Iraqi forces once they take over security in Kirkuk.
Baghdad had demanded Kurdistan to hand over security in Kirkuk to Iraqi forces following a political crisis that erupted when Kurdistan held a referendum in September in which 92% voted for independence from Iraq.
On Thursday, Kurdistan Security Council warned that Iraq was preparing for a military offensive in Kirkuk.
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