Iraq army launches operation to retake Kirkuk province, general — Iraqi forces have started a military operation south of the disputed oil city of Kirkuk, a senior Iraqi officer said on Friday.

Kurdish authorities had earlier deployed thousands of fighters around Kirkuk for fear of an attack by Iraqi government troops and militia, a senior official said.

“Thousands of heavily armed peshmerga units are now completely in their positions around Kirkuk,” a top aide to Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani tweeted.

“Their order is to defend at any cost,” Hemin Hawrami said.

– Peshmerga forces arrive in Kirkuk –

Kurdish government vice president Kosurt Rasul headed a force of 6,000 Peshmerga fighters to defend Kirkuk, a security source said.

He added that the US-led coalition warplanes are helping and supporting Peshmerga forces.

Earlier, IMIS militias mobilized thousands of soldiers, 20 km from Kirkuk Governorate on Friday.

The militias are getting ready to begin the fight and storm the governorate after dawn break on Friday.

On Wednesday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said Iraqi government forces and Iranian-trained militias were preparing a major attack on Kurdish forces in the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

Tensions between the KRG and the federal government have escalated since the Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in a referendum last month.

This is a breaking news, we are working and more details will be published as soon as they are available.

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