Peshmerga fighters gathering at the Altun Kubri checkpoint, 40kms from Kirkuk, on October 20, 2017. AFP / Marc-Antoine Pelaez
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Iraqi pro-government paramilitaries launched an offensive against Kurdish troops Tuesday near the Turkish frontier, pushing toward a strategic border crossing and oil export pipeline hub that Baghdad says must come under its control.The Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country since launching a campaign last week to seize back territory from the Kurds, who govern an autonomous region of three northern provinces and had also seized a swathe of other territory in northern Iraq.Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has ordered his army to recapture all disputed territory, and has also demanded central control of Iraq's border crossings with Turkey, all of which are inside the Kurdish autonomous region itself.The fighting so far has taken place outside the Kurdish autonomous region, but Fish-Khabur is located within it, so any assault on the border crossing would mark a major escalation, bringing government troops into undisputed Kurdish territory.
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