Kurdish Forces Pull Back to June 2014 Line as Iraqi Army Continues to Advance

Thousands of civilians are streaming back to Kirkuk, a day after fleeing as Iraqi troops pushed Kurdish forces back to positions they held back in 2014

An Iraqi boy drags a Kurdish flag as Iraqi forces advance towards the centre of Kirkuk during an operation against Kurdish fighters on October 16, 2017
AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, plans to make a statement on Tuesday urging the Kurdish factions to avoid civil war, Erbil-based Rudaw TV said.

The statement would be Barzani's first since the takover of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk by Iraqi government forces on Monday. 

Iraq’s Kurdish fighters have lost more territory in Iraq, a day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of Kirkuk.

Haaretz Infographics

Kurdish Peshmerga forces returned on Wednesday to positions they held in June 2014, before Islamic State invaded northern and western Iraq, a senior Iraqi military commander told Reuters. 

Kurdish forces returned to that line after handing over positions in Nineveh's province on Tuesday, having expanded their territory in the course of the three-year war with the jihadist group. 

In the town of Sinjar, commander of the local Yazidi militia, Masloum Shingali, says the Kurdish forces left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Shiite-led militiamen who are fighting with Iraqi forces to move into the town.

Shingali says there was no fighting and that the Kurdish forces “left immediately, they didn’t want to fight.”

Town Mayor Mahma Khalil says the Popular Mobilization Forces, a predominantly Shi'ite militia coalition backed by Iran, is securing Sinjar.

Thousands of civilians are streaming back to Kirkuk, a day after fleeing as Iraqi troops pushed Kurdish forces out of the disputed oil-rich city.

The civilians were heading back on Tuesday, driving along a main highway to the city’s east. The Kurdish peshmerga forces had built an earthen berm along the highway, reinforced by armored vehicles, but were allowing civilians to return to the city.

Many returnees were seen with their children and belongings packed tight in their cars.

The Iraqi forces’ retaking of Kirkuk came only two weeks after they had fought together with the Kurdish fighters to neutralize the Islamic State group in Iraq, their common enemy.

As Kirkuk’s Arab and Turkmen residents on Monday evening celebrated the change of power, thousands of Kurdish residents, fearful of federal and Shiite militia rule, packed the roads north to Irbil, the capital of the northern autonomous Kurdish region.

On Monday, Iraqi troops pushed their Kurdish allies in the battle against the Islamic State group out of Kirkuk, seizing oil fields and other facilities amid soaring tensions over last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.