2 soldiers killed in Iraq's Altun Kupri clashes: military

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-21 20:26:52|Editor: ying
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BAGHDAD, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi military on Saturday said that two of the federal troops were killed and five others were wounded in the clashes that erupted on Friday morning when the Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Alun Kupri from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

A statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said the Iraqi forces came under fire by the Peshmerga forces when the Iraqi federal forces, which had orders not to open fire, approached the town of Altun Kupri, some 40 km north of the city of Kirkuk.

The Peshmerga force used mortar rounds and the German Millan guided anti-tank missiles, and destroyed an Iraqi army tank, leaving two soldiers killed and five others wounded, the statement said, adding that the Peshmerga forces blew up the bridge of Altun Kupri.

After the federal troops took control of the town, the Peshmerga forces took new positions 3 km away, and continued their fire by mortar rounds and heavy machine guns, the statement said.

The troops advanced to Altun Kupri were not paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades, according to the statement, but were the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces, Federal Police and a force from the 9th Armored Division.

After the troops entered the town of Altun Kupri, only the 20th Infantry Division secured the town, the statement said, dismissing the Kurdish allegations that the predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi brigades carried out the redeployment operations in Kirkuk province.

The JOC asserts that the federal forces are "strictly committed to responsible dealing with the citizens and are conducting a constitutional security duty" with the aim at imposing security and redeployment in the disputed areas, according to the statement.

The JOC statement came in response to a Kurdish statement by the Peshmerga which accused the "Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd Shaabi)" of attacking Altun Kupri area, but the Peshmerga "destroyed 10 U.S. Humvee vehicles and two tanks, including an M1 Abrams tank."

Such (U.S.) weapons were supplied by the coalition to be used in the war against Islamic State (IS) group, but are now used by Iraq's army and Hashd Shaabi against the people of Kurdistan, the Peshmerga statement said.

Late on Friday, the JOC accused the Kurdish Peshmerga forces of using German rocket in fighting against Iraqi federal forces at a disputed area in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

A statement by the media office of the JOC said "unfortunately today (Friday) the German missiles supplied (previously) to the Peshmerga to fight IS exclusively were used against the federal forces in the Altun Kupri area, causing damages and victims."

Earlier on Friday, the Iraqi forces redeployed in the town of Altun Kupri and took full control of the town.

The strategic town of Altun Kupri is located between Kirkuk and the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil.

On Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, ordered government forces to enter the oil-rich Kirkuk province in northern Iraq to regain control of the ethnically-mixed disputed areas.

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 other countries as it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against IS militants.

Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear that the Iraqi Kurds' pursuit of independence threatens their territorial integrity, as large Kurdish populations live in those countries.