Iraq PM demands Kurdish Peshmarga forces
leave disputed city of Kirkuk
BAGHDAD, — Iraq's prime minister asked
the Kurdistan Regional Government Thursday to remove
thousands of troops surrounding the oil-rich
northern city of Kirkuk without central government
permission, a cabinet source said.
The government of the semi-autonomous northern
region moved the heavily armed peshmerga troops into
position around Kirkuk last week to secure the city
from threatened attacks during mass protests, a
senior Kurdish official said.
The move raised tensions in the volatile north and
prompted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to demand
their immediate withdrawal, the Iraqi cabinet source
"These troops were deployed without the permission
of the central government and the prime minister has
asked them to draw down immediately," said the
source, who asked not to be named.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Photo: Getty
between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen over land and oil
in Kirkuk and other disputed northern areas are
considered a potential flashpoint for future
Jafer Mustafa, the Kurdish minister of peshmerga,
said the troops were deployed at the entrances to
Kirkuk and in locations around the city to protect
Kurds from alleged planned attacks by al Qaeda and
members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party.
"Kirkuk originally was taken from the Kurdistan
region and protecting it is our duty, not just that
of the Iraqi government," Mustafa told Reuters.
"There was a serious danger awaiting the Kurds in
Kirkuk because of these events (demonstrations). So
peshmerga were deployed around Kirkuk to secure it
from the threats."
Some 12,000 peshmerga troops armed with small and
medium artillery as well as AK-47 assault rifles are
surrounding Kirkuk, Arab and Kurdish sources said.
The troops also have cannons and armored vehicles.
A police source said a curfew would be imposed on
Kirkuk from 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) Friday ahead of the
The cabinet source said Maliki had reached a
provisional deal with Kurdish officials in Baghdad
for the withdrawal of the troops, saying that
protecting Kirkuk and other disputed areas was the
exclusive responsibility of central government
But there was no immediate sign in Kirkuk that the
Kurdish troops were withdrawing, officials on the
Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have
come close to blows on several occasions over the
past two years as Maliki has sought to strengthen
the central government's presence in and around the
The U.S. military has intervened several times to
prevent fighting breaking out. U.S. troops will
fully withdraw by the end of this year in accordance
with a security pact with Iraq.
"The street (people) in Kirkuk are afraid of the
entry of these forces into the city in any moment
with its big numbers and heavy weapons," said
Abdulla Sami al-Asi, a member of Kirkuk's provincial
council. "If this happens, there will be a big
problem that cannot be controlled."
Kirkuk city is historically a Kurdish city and it
lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a
mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs,www.ekurd.net
Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of
Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional
attachment to Kirkuk,www.ekurd.net
which they call "the Kurdish
Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and
perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to
the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city
and other disputed areas through having back its
Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs
relocated in the city during the former regime’s
time to their original provinces in central and
The article also calls for conducting a census to be
followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants
decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed
to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having
it as an independent province.
The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up
their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the
city and the region's oil industry.
The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was
conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his
program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed
178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and
10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the
Copyright ©, respective
author or news agency,
Reuters | ekurd.net | Agencies
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news
information on this page