Kurdish policemen stand guard while refugees from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region outside Irbil, 217 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, June. 11, 2014. (AP Photo)
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A major offensive by jihadists is allowing Iraqi Kurds to take control of disputed territory that Baghdad has long opposed them adding to their autonomous northern region.With federal forces abandoning their posts, Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, are filling the vacuum in some areas – defending them from the militants but also putting them under Kurdish control. All four provinces contain territory claimed by both the federal government and the three-province Kurdistan region, which has its own borders, security forces and government but is financially dependent on Baghdad.The city is at the heart of the swath of territory the Kurds want to incorporate into their region.The presence of jihadists in provinces that neighbor the Kurds' autonomous region also carries economic risks.
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