Kurdistan alarmed by heavy artillery and tanks in Kirkuk area: KRSC
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Iraqi forces along with Iranian-trained paramilitaries deployed in Kirkuk areas have heavy weaponry build up, Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) said on early hours of Friday.
The council said it is "alarmed by significant Iraqi military and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) build up in Bashir and Taz in South of Kirkuk, including tanks, heavy artillery, humvees, and mortars."
These forces are approximately 3 kilometers from Peshmerga front line positions. Intelligence shows an intention to take over nearby oil fields, airport and military base, KRSC added.
"We call on the Iraqi Government to stop the PMF aggression in Kirkuk and North Mosul. This reckless, provocative move follows Iraq's air embargo suspending international flights and other measures amounting to collective punishment on the people of Kurdistan," the statement added.
"Kurdistan continues calling for dialogue and peaceful means to settle differences. The international community too must denounce the military deployments and call on the Iraqi government to return to talks," it concluded.
Kurdish leadership has urged the international community and US-led coalition to stop the mass punishment of the region, saying using force would benefit no one.
Escaping the brutalities of the Islamic States (IS), nearly two million Iraqis and Syrians found safety in Kurdistan but are now living in fear once again as tensions rise between Erbil and Baghdad after the referendum.
Following a democratically held referendum where over 92 percent voted for secession from Iraq, Baghdad forced international airlines to halt flights to Kurdistan, tried to exert control over Kurdistan’s oil revenues, and deployed troops to the disputed areas.
The flight ban on both the Erbil and Sulaimani international airports has affected the lives of many, notably humanitarian aid workers and foreign workers.
The Kurdish leadership has encouraged dialogue, but Baghdad refuses to talk until Kurdistan nullifies the results of the vote.
Iran also reduced water flow from the Lower Zab river to Kurdistan, and Baghdad on Monday ordered that mobile phone networks “should be under the authority of the federal authorities.”
Baghdad has also threatened to launch a lawsuit to prosecute state employees in the Kurdistan Region who voted in the Sep. 25 referendum.
While the Federal Government of Iraq deems the vote "unconstitutional," the Kurdish leadership affirms the poll's legitimacy comes from the people directly whereas Baghdad officials have regularly violated some 55 articles of the Iraqi Constitution.
The Foreign Ministry of Iraq recently stated that they had requested both Iran and Turkey, via their embassies in Baghdad, to suspend all commercial border transactions and dealings with the Kurdistan Region, especially those related to the export of oil.
So far, neighboring countries have not effectively closed their border crossings with the Kurdistan Region, but continue to threaten the Region.