Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Counterterrorism Services (CTS), Federal Police (FP), and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) launched a combined offensive with intent to seize the K1 military base, Kirkuk airport, and Kirkuk’s oilfields at around 0200hrs (local) on October 16.
The offensive followed two days of failed negotiations after the government of Iraq demanded Kurdish forces withdraw from the disputed areas around Kirkuk and cede control to Iraqi federal forces.
Crisis talks on October 15 failed to resolve the standoff as Kurdish leaders refused Iraqi government demands to reject the referendum result.
Clashes were subsequently reported to have broken out between Iraqi and Kurdish forces south of the city of Kirkuk.
Iraqi state media said that federal troops had entered disputed territories occupied by the Kurds, saying they had taken control of ‘vast areas’ without opposition from the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Kurdish officials, however, denied that the Iraqi forces had been able to get close to Kirkuk city and said that the oil fields west of the city were still under Kurdish control.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) said in a statement that federal forces were advancing along two routes along the Taza-Kirkuk intersection and Maryam Bag Bridge, both South of Kirkuk.
Separate reports claimed artillery fire could be heard to the south of Kirkuk city in the early hours. An initial statement by the US state department said it was ‘very concerned’ about reports of a confrontation and was ‘monitoring the situation in Kirkuk closely’.
Oil prices reported to have jumped early on October 16 amid reports of the clashes in Kirkuk.