Iraqi forces advancing towards Kurdish-held Kirkuk: Iraqi and Kurdish officials

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The General Command of Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan circulated a statement Friday morning claiming that Iraqi military forces were being deployed to "attack Peshmerga-held areas, particularly in and around Kirkuk".

"The Popular Mobilization Force, formed and trained by Iran, gave the Peshmerga until midnight local time (04:00 GMT+7 Sunday) to leave his position north of the Maktab Khalid junction", official from the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Security Council said.

The Baghdad central government has taken a series of steps to isolate the autonomous Kurdish region since its overwhelming vote for independence in a September 25 referendum, including banning global flights from going there.

Ex-Governor of Kirkuk Najmiddin Karim told reporters today after visiting Kurdish protestors on the streets of Kirkuk that people are supporting them and Peshmerga will not withdraw from the city.

Kurdish officials said the move was in response to reports that Iraqi army and federal police forces, along with Hashd al-Shaabi troops, had moved to within a few miles of Peshmerga positions and were preparing a "major attack in southwest Kirkuk" against oil fields, military bases and the airport.

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Tensions between the two sides have been running especially high since Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for secession in a September 25 referendum that Baghdad rejected as illegal. The Peshmerga deployment prevented Kirkuk's oil fields from falling into militant hands.

The central government of Baghdad lost control of the area in June 2014 after the occupation of Daesh, an acronym in Arabic for an Islamic state, and then Iraqi Kurdish forces (Peshmerga) evicted the terrorists and resumed it.

The group's last territory in Iraq is now a stretch skirting the western border with Syria following the fall of the town of Hawija and surrounding areas on October 5 in an offensive by US-backed Iraqi forces.

The central government in Baghdad has taken a series of measures to isolate the Kurdish region since they held a referendum on independence, including banning global flights to the area. "We can't turn on each other right now", he said.

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