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Iraqi forces take two key Kirkuk oil fields from Kurds

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on the disputed oil-rich region of Kirkuk on Monday [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 October, 2017

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Iraqi forces have continued their assault on the disputed region of Kirkuk, capturing two key oil fields from the Kurds, as the US warns of "severe consequences" over the conflict.

Iraqi forces took control of the two largest oil fields in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk on Tuesday after Kurdish forces withdrew, police said.

"Federal police units took control of the Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields," north of the city of Kirkuk, a statement said.

The loss of the fields is a major blow for the finances of the autonomous Kurdish government as they accounted for a significant share of the region's oil exports.

Kurdish technicians had halted operations at the two fields and left the wells on Monday, an oil ministry official in Baghdad said.

Iraqi military forces launched operations against Kurdish forces around Kirkuk early on Monday, following a tense stand-off over a controversial independence referendum last month.

Kirkuk is hotly contested between the two powers, with Kurdish forces in control of the oil-rich, ethnically-diverse city, which Baghdad claims as an integral part of Iraq.

Earlier on Monday, Iraqi forces seized a military airport as well as the K1 army base from the Kurdish fighters, just eight kilometres north of Kirkuk.

They also seized the North Oil Company and Baba Gurgur oil fields on Monday. There are six fields in the disputed region.

The United States sought on Monday to avoid openly taking sides, with President Donald Trump expressing disappointment over the in-fighting.

"We've had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we've also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been there in the first place. We should never have been there. But we’re not taking sides in that battle," he told reporters at the White House.

Senator John McCain, the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned Iraq's government of "severe consequences" over any further misuse of US-provided artillery against Kurdish forces.

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