Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has denied an attack plan against the positions of Kurdish Peshmerga forces amid ongoing tensions between the central government in Baghdad and authorities of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
“We are not going to use our army to fight our people or to make war on our Kurdish citizens or others,” Abadi said in televised comments broadcast on state-run al-Iraqiya television network on Thursday.
He added, “Our duty is to preserve the unity of our country, to implement the constitution, and to protect citizens and national forces.”
The remarks came as an unnamed Kurdish military official said Peshmerga forces had closed the two main roads connecting the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Dohuk with the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, located some 400 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, for several hours.
“The closure was prompted by fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas,” held by Kurdish forces outside the Kurdish region, the official added.
Kurdish authorities said late on Wednesday that they feared Iraqi army forces and pro- government fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, were gearing up to launch an assault on the semi-autonomous region.
“We’re receiving dangerous messages that Hashd al-Sha’abi forces and federal police are preparing a major attack from the southwest of Kirkuk and north of Mosul against Kurdistan,” the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Security Council said.
Iraqi security sources said on Thursday that members of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and the Interior Ministry’s elite rapid response forces had deployed more troops near Peshmerga positions around Rashad village, situated some 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) underplayed the fears, expressing confidence that dialogue would resolve the issue.
“Our mission is clear: we are fighting a single enemy, ISIL,” said the spokesman for the JOC, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, who added, “All that interests Iraqis … is to liberate our country and beat the terrorist group. We do not forget the role played by the Peshmerga.”
Rasool further noted that Iraqi government forces had previously operated close to Peshmerga lines near the northern city of Tal Afar.
Source: Press TV