Iraqi PM orders withdrawal of militias from Kirkuk

Baghdad: The Iraqi Prime Minister on Wednesday ordered the withdrawal from Kirkuk province of Shiite-led pro-government militias who took part in the successful campaign to expel Kurdish forces from the northern region.

Haider al-Abadi also ordered the prosecution of those who spread hatred, racism and false information aimed at creating division among citizens, according to a statement from the Iraqi military Joint Operations Command, Xinhua reported.

Local police, with support from national anti-terrorist forces, are in charge of security in Kirkuk, the Prime Minister said, banning the presence of any other armed group in the province.

He stressed that Iraqi security forces must protect citizens and their property without regard to anyone’s religion or ethnicity.

The province is home to a mixed population of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen and hundreds of Kurdish families have fled for the autonomous region of Kurdistan since Iraqi forces launched a campaign to re-take Kirkuk from Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

Kurdish forces occupied the city and province in 2014 at around the same time that the Islamic State seized nearby Mosul, Iraq’s second city.

Baghdad moved to reclaim control of Kirkuk following the September 25 independence referendum in Kurdistan.

Iraqi authorities announced Wednesday the end of the military operation.