Kurds block Iraqi forces access to Kirkuk’s oil fields, air base

A Kurdish Peshmerga Fighter is seen in the Southwest of Kirkuk. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 October 2017
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Kurds block Iraqi forces access to Kirkuk’s oil fields, air base

BAGHDAD: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters rejected a warning from an Iraqi paramilitary force to withdraw from a strategic junction south of Kirkuk, which controls the access to some of the region’s main oilfields, a Kurdish security official told Reuters on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani arrived in Iraq’s Kurdistan region for talks about the escalating crisis between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi government following last month’s Kurdish independence referendum.
Soleimani is the commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, a military corp providing training and weapons to Iraqi paramilitary groups backing the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, known as Popular Mobilization.
He arrived in the Kurdish region Saturday, a Kurdish official said.
Popular Mobilization had given the Peshmerga until midnight local time (2100 GMT Saturday) to leave a position north of the Maktab Khalid junction, an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Security Council said.
Ali Al-Hussaini, a spokesman for the paramilitary groups known as Hashid Shaabi in Arabic, told Reuters the deadline had expired without giving indications about their next move.
“We are waiting for new orders, no extension is expected,” he said.
The Kurdish position north of the junction controls the access to an important air base and Bai Hassan, one of the main crude oil fields of the region, the KRG official said.
The city, the air base and their immediate surroundings, including the oilfields, are under Kurdish control.
There were no clashes reported 14 hours after the deadline, but a resident said dozens of young Kurds took up arms and were deployed in the streets of Kirkuk with machine guns as the news of the warning spread.
The KRG and the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad are at loggerheads since the Sept. 25 vote, which delivered an overwhelming yes for Kurdish independence.
Kurdish authorities said on Friday they had sent thousands more troops to Kirkuk to confront Iraqi “threats.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has repeatedly denied any plans to attack the Kurds.
Popular Mobilization is a separate force from the regular army and officially reports to Abadi. It is deployed alongside the army south and west of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk, a city of more than one million people, lies just outside KRG territory but Peshmerga forces were stationed there in 2014 when Iraqi security forces collapsed in the face of a Daesh onslaught. The Peshmerga deployment prevented Kirkuk’s oilfields from falling into jihadist hands.
The Baghdad central government has taken a series of steps to isolate the autonomous Kurdish region since its overwhelming vote for independence in the referendum, including banning international flights from taking off or landing there.


Explosion targets a tourist bus, injures at least 17 near Cairo’s Great Pyramids: Security sources

Updated 19 min 41 sec ago
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Explosion targets a tourist bus, injures at least 17 near Cairo’s Great Pyramids: Security sources

  • There were no reports of deaths
  • One security source said they included South African nationals

CAIRO: An explosion targeting a tourist bus injured at least 17 people near a new museum being built close to the Giza pyramids in Egypt on Sunday, two security sources said.

The sources said that most of the injuries were foreign tourists, with some social media users posting pictures of a damaged bus and what looked like injured tourists.

One security source said they included South African nationals.

There were no reports of deaths. A witness, Mohamed El-Mandouh, told Reuters he heard a "very loud explosion" while sitting in traffic near the site of the blast.

Pictures posted on social media showed a bus with some of its windows blown out or shattered, and debris in the road next to a low wall with a hole in it.

It is the second to target foreign tourists near the famed pyramids in less than six months. In December, three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian guide were killed and at least 10 others injured when a roadside bomb hit their tour bus less than 4 kilometres from the Giza pyramids. 

Egypt has battled militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an ongoing insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland, which often targets minority Christians or tourists.

The attack comes as Egypt's vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.

(With Agencies)