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U.S. 'Very Concerned' By Reported Violence Around Kirkuk


Residents wave to Iraqi forces as they arrive in the first neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk on October 16.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi says the independence referendum held last month in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region is "a thing of the past" after government forces seized territory from Kurds across the north of the country.

Abadi made the comments at an October 17 news conference in Baghdad, a day after the Iraqi Army entered the northern Kirkuk province.

The operation comes three weeks after the Kurdish region held the independence referendum that infuriated Baghdad.

Abadi told the news conference that the referendum "is finished and has become a thing of the past," though he called for a dialogue with Kurdish leaders "under the constitution."

Residents of the Kurdish-controlled areas, including Kirkuk, largely backed secession from Iraq in the September 25 referendum.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of much of Kirkuk Province in 2014, when militants from the extremist group Islamic State swept across northern Iraq.

The Baghdad government said earlier on October 17 that Peshmerga soldiers withdrew without fighting, but clashes were reported.

The United States, which opposed the referendum, called for "calm" after Iraqi government forces seized Kirkuk but said it wouldn't take sides in the dispute.

The U.S. military said on October 17 that it had received conflicting reports of the death toll in a battle outside Kirkuk the previous day, with between three and 11 fighters killed.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
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