Clashes continue to rage unabated in Iraq’s northwestern Rabia area, military source tells Anadolu Agency
Clashes erupted early Thursday between Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq’s northwestern Rabia area near the border with Syria, according to an Iraqi military source.
“The clashes, which were still ongoing as of 8:15 GMT, centered around the village of Mahmoudiya in the Tal Afar district northwest of Mosul,” Colonel Ahmad al-Jubouri, commander of the Iraqi army’s Nineveh Operations Command, told Anadolu Agency.
“The two sides are still exchanging artillery and missile fire,” he said, adding that several rockets fired by Peshmerga forces had struck the nearby villages of Owaisiya and Rajm Hassan, along with the Rabia industrial zone.
The fighting, al-Jubouri added, had caused “hundreds” of Arab families to flee the area.
Earlier Thursday, Iraqi forces clashed with Peshmerga northwest of Mosul in an effort to establish control over the Peshmerga-held Fish-Khabur border crossing.
Last week, government forces began moving into parts of the country disputed between Baghdad and northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), including the oil-rich Kirkuk province.
So far, Iraqi forces have succeeded in establishing control over most of these areas, including Kirkuk and parts of the Nineveh, Saladin and Diyala provinces.
On Thursday morning, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the army’s ability to impose federal authority over all Iraqi territory as “a victory for all Iraqi citizens”.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran with Iran’s vice-president, al-Abadi added: “We plan to bring all these areas under the authority of the [Iraqi] state.”
Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-held areas -- and in several disputed areas -- voted on whether or not to declare political independence.
According to results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.
The unconstitutional referendum was heavily criticized by most regional and international actors, with many warning it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.