Many of Kirkuk’s civilian residents fled before this weekend's army advance on oil-rich city
Civilian residents of Kirkuk who recently fled the city before an Iraqi army advance began are returning home Monday.
Within the past two days, numerous Kurdish families had fled Kirkuk fearing clashes between Iraqi forces and Peshmerga fighters loyal to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
On Tuesday, however, many of those who had fled began returning to their homes in Kirkuk after going through army checkpoints set up outside the city.
Ako Rashid, a civilian resident of Kirkuk, said he and his family had fled the city one day earlier amid rumors of impending violence.
“We left reluctantly,” Rashid told Anadolu Agency. “Local politicians in Kirkuk were saying that the [Iraqi] army was coming to hurt us.”
Asaad Muhsin, another returning Kirkuk resident, told Anadolu Agency: “We are prepared to welcome whoever will serve Kirkuk’s people.”
Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the KRG -- both of which lay claim to Kirkuk -- since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas voted on whether or not to declare political independence.
After deploying troops to disputed areas this weekend, Iraqi officials announced on Monday that Kirkuk’s oilfields and energy facilities had been brought under the control of Iraq’s central government.
In the wake of Daesh’s 2014 onslaught, forces loyal to the KRG seized control of disputed areas in Iraq’s Kirkuk, Nineveh, Diyala and Saladin provinces.