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Turkey deploying armed forces in Kirkuk

KURDISH politicians have accused Turkey of forming an armed militia in the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) former MP Shiwan Dawudi and PUK executive member Xalid Swani said on Sunday night that they have informed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, but have yet to receive a response.

They say the 500 to 600-strong militia is illegal under international law banning countries from forming and arming groups in other countries.

The pair say they have seen documents proving that the group was trained in Turkish border town Silopi before being deployed to Kirkuk, which is made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs and Assyrians.

According to the PUK officials, the mercenaries are paid between $400 and $700 a year and have joined the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC).

They warned that Turkey is interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq, accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “importing terror” into another country.

The city is known as the Kurdish Jerusalem. It was controversially included in the September 2017 independence referendum despite being officially administered outside of the Kurdish regional government.

Iraqi government forces moved to take back the city in October 2017 from the Kurdish peshmerga who had controlled Kirkuk since defeating Isis in 2014.

PUK officials claimed that the deployment of the Turkish forces were part of Mr Erdogan’s plans to destabilise Kirkuk after details were leaked of plans for Nato troops to be stationed in the city which would come under the control of the international coalition.

Kirkuk has been riven by a bitter and often violent ethnic and sectarian divide with accusations of fraud and vote-rigging in the Iraqi general election in May, which is subject to a manual recount.

A resurgent Isis has used the political instability in Kirkuk to launch a number of attacks on the city and surrounding villages as it seeks to exploit tensions.

Earlier this week Turkey’s Iyi (Good) party held a rally claiming “Kirkuk is Turkish and will remain Turkish.” 

The PUK said the international community is seeking to exploit the region’s vast oil reserves.


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