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Iraqi Forces Retake Kurdish-Held Areas In Nineveh, Diyala Provinces

Displaced people riding in trucks and cars head back to their homes in Hawija, on the outskirts of Kirkuk, on October 18.

Iraqi government forces say they have taken control of areas previously held by Kurdish forces in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala.

An army statement said on October 18 that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters withdrew from the areas before the arrival of the Iraqi forces.

It said the positions retaken included the Mosul Dam and the town of Sinjar in the northern Nineveh province and the towns of Khanaqin and Jalawla in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad.

Earlier this week, Iraqi soldiers and allied militia took control of the city of Kirkuk, nearby oil fields, and other key installations in the northern Kirkuk Province.

The operation came three weeks after the country's autonomous Kurdish region held an independence referendum declared illegal by Baghdad.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said the operation was necessary to "protect the unity" of Iraq.

Kurdish regional leader Masud Barzani called for peace but vowed to continue working toward Kurdish independence.

Peshmerga forces had captured positions in Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Diyala provinces over the past three years during fighting against the extremist group Islamic State.

Voters in the autonomous Kurdish region and disputed Kurdish-held areas largely backed secession in the September 25 referendum.

Based on reporting by Reuters, the BBC, and AFP