Iraqi government forces seized the disputed city of Kirkuk on Monday (October 16) and key installations from Kurdish control.
The federal government in Baghdad and sources inside the city told Al Jazeera news agency on Monday that Iraqi security forces had captured the governorate building in the center of Kirkuk city.
Iraqi soldiers moved into Kirkuk three weeks after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum.
They are aiming to retake areas under Kurdish control since Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) militants swept through the region.
Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces moved into the provincial government headquarters in the center of the oil-rich city, which has been run by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since 2014. The Iraqi military said it had taken control of Kirkuk’s airport, while its forces also secured North Oil Company facilities, including the state company’s headquarters.
The KRG exports more than 550,000 barrels of oil a day, the majority from Kirkuk and surrounding fields, and production in Kurdish-controlled territories accounts for about 15 per cent of Iraq’s total output.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi earlier said the operation was aimed at protecting the unity of Iraq following Kurdistan’s independence vote.
“It is my constitutional duty to work for the benefit of the citizens and to protect our national unity that came under threat of fragmentation as a result of the referendum that was organized by the Kurdish region,” al-Abadi said in a statement.