Kurdistan Sends Peshmerga Troops to Kirkuk Amid 'Threats' by Iraqi Army

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BAGHDAD, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Kurdish authorities have sent thousands more troops to the oil region of Kirkuk to confront threats from Iraq's central government, the vice president of the autonomous Kurdistan region said on Friday.

Some residents queued at petrol stations with jerry cans to fill up, while other civilians have begun taking up arms.

Meanwhile, a Justice Ministry official from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), denounced the Iraqi court's warrants as "politically motivated", stressing that Baghdad's judicial system has no jurisdiction in Kurdistan, which is allegedly ruled by its own legal body.

Iraq's government has taken a series of measures to isolate the region since the Kurds' Sept. 25 referendum on independence, including banning global flights from going there and pushing for a halt to its crude oil sales. "Some Kurds describe Kirkuk as their Jerusalem, and they are saying that they are not going to give up this city". Haidar Al-Abadi went on to call for joint administration between the Iraqi government and the KRG over the disputed areas in Kirkuk under the leadership of the federal government in Baghdad, without giving further details on how this would work.

The Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga have been allies in the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group.

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"We will not allow anyone to attack (Kirkuk)", Arass Faqih, another civilian holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle, told AFP.

Another officer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed the army had no intentions to enter Kirkuk, and that there were no confrontations outside the city.

Rassoul Omar, another peshmerga general, said his fighters were mobilising south of Kirkuk.

The alert came after the Kurdish authorities accused the Iraqi government of massing forces in readiness for an offensive to seize Kurdish-held oilfields around Kirkuk, as tensions soar after a vote for independence on September 25. This stopped the region's oil fields from falling under jihadi control.

In 2014 "the peshmerga prevented IS from attacking the oil infrastructure. and protected the residents of Kirkuk", said commander Sheikh Mustafa. Earlier Baghdad dismissed the governor of Kirkuk and chose to deploy troops to the province.

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