Middle East

Iraq Kurds prepared to defend Kirkuk

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes his position on the front line with militants from the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), in Tuz Khormato, 100 kilometers south of the oil rich province of Kirkuk, northern Iraq June 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

KIRKUK: Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region is prepared to commit all of its forces to defend Kirkuk, its president said Thursday during a visit to the disputed city.

If required, "we will bring all of our forces to preserve Kirkuk," Barzani said during a meeting there.

It was Barzani's first visit to Kirkuk since Iraqi forces withdrew in the face of a major offensive by Sunni Muslim jihadists, allowing Kurdish forces already there to take control.

The offensive has cleared the way for Iraqi Kurds to begin realizing long-held territorial dreams, moving their forces into disputed areas that the federal government has long opposed them adding to their autonomous northern region.

But this has also put Kurdish forces directly in the militants' line of fire.





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