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Iraqi Troops Clash With Kurdish Peshmerga South Of Irbil


Smoke rises as Kurdish security forces withdraw from a checkpoint in Alton Kupri, outside of Irbil, on October 20.

Iraqi government troops have clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters as government forces continued to deploy in parts of northern Iraq the Kurdish fighters captured from Islamic State (IS) militants during the past three years.

The clash on October 20 near the town of Altun Kupri, in the northernmost part of Kirkuk Province, occurred on a key highway about 50 kilometers south of Irbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region.

The fighting came three weeks after the Kurdish region held an independence referendum that Baghdad has declared illegal.

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

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi says Iraqi forces have been moving into disputed areas of northern Iraq in order to "protect the unity" of the country.

According to Baghdad, Peshmerga fighters have been withdrawing from other parts of northern Iraq in recent days ahead of the arrival of government troops, including territory in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala.

Earlier this week, government soldiers and allied Shi'ite militia fighters took control of the city of Kirkuk, nearby oil fields, and other key installations in Kirkuk Province.

Government forces, allied Shi'ite militia fighters, and Peshmerga from the Kurdish autonomous region were previously working together to fight IS militants.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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