BAGHDAD, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Monday seized more areas and oil installations in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and nearby Diyala, as the troops are advancing to recapture areas from Kurdish Peshmerga forces, the Iraqi military said.
The Iraqi forces recaptured the headquarters of the government-owned North Oil Company and the nearby huge oil and gas field, known as Baba Gurgur, in addition to the town of Laylan near Kirkuk, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a brief statement.
Baba Gurgur, Iraq's oldest oil and gas-oil field, was first discovered in northern Iraq in 1927.
Meanwhile, the Peshmerga withdrew from the ethnically-mixed city of Tuz-Khurmato, some 230 km north of Baghdad, as the Iraqi security forces deployed in the streets to secure the city, a security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The Peshmerga withdrawal came after sporadic clashes erupted overnight with paramilitary Hashd Shaabi unit, backed by the security forces that left two Peshmerga members killed and a third wounded, the source said.
Tuz-Khurmato is made up mostly of Turkoman Shiite and sizable Kurdish and Sunni Arab population.
Previously, the city witnessed repeated clashes between the Kurds and Shiite militias, as the city and surrounding areas are part of the disputed areas outside the Kurdistan region.
In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, the Peshmerga forces withdrew from the multi-ethnic cities of Qara Tappa and Jalawlaa in northeast of the provincial capital city of Baquba, which itself located some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial government source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The Peshmerga forces headed to the mainly Kurdish city of Khanaqin, near the border with Iran, after they withdrew from Diyala two cities, which are part of the disputed areas, the source said, adding that Iraqi army and federal police deployed in the two cities without trouble.
The operation of the Iraqi security forces came after the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered government forces to enter the oil-rich Kirkuk province in northern Iraq to regain control of the disputed areas claimed between Baghdad and the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.
Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), Federal Police forces and the 9th Armored Division have been deployed in vast areas in Kirkuk province to surround the capital city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad and recaptured many areas, including redeployment in the K1 Air Base, also known as Hurriyah Air Base, northwest of the city of Kirkuk, according to an earlier JOC statement.
Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been running high for years. The ethnic Kurds consider the northern Kirkuk province and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans and by the central government in Baghdad.
The areas are mostly under the control of Peshmerga, but in small areas like Tuz-Khurmato, there is a mixed presence of federal forces and the Peshmerga.
Tensions are escalating between Baghdad and the region of Kurdistan after the Kurds held a controversial referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region and the disputed areas.
The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by most other countries as it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against Islamic State militants.
Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear that the Iraqi Kurds' pursuit of independence threatens their territorial integrity, as a large Kurdish population lives in those countries.