Iraqi army division merges with Kurdish forces to guard Kirkuk against ISIS

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By Marwan al-Ani

Azzaman, June 14, 2014

An Iraqi army division has joined forces with Kurdish militias in a bid to protect the oil-rich Province of Kirkuk from attacks by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a senior provincial security official in the province said.

Mohammed al-Jibouri of the provincial security commission said the 12th  division of the Iraqi armed forces was still holding ground in its base in Kirkuk.

Kurdish militias known as peshmerga have advanced on Kirkuk following news that Iraqi armed forces had abandoned their positions in the face of a possible attack on the city by ISIS.

However, Jibouri said the Iraqi army division entrusted with defending Kirkuk was closely coordinating with Kurdish peshmerga to repel any such attack by ISIS.

“Iraqi army 12th division and peshmerga forces have formed a joint command and are working together to secure the provincial borders” of Kirkuk, said Jibouri.

Jibouri said the new joint command center was operating from the headquarters of the Iraqi army 12th division.

“The security situation in the provinces south of Kirkuk and in the Province of Kirkuk itself necessitates a joint security effort,” he said.

Jibouri denied reports the division had abandoned its headquarters and that its units had fled.

However, he said certain provincial towns, which reportedly have been overrun by ISIS, were in need of “large military forces to recapture them.”

Jibouri also revealed that Iraqi troops were closely coordinating with Kurdish peshmerga in other districts.

He said peshmerga units were pouring into some areas of Kirkuk in support of the army to prevent security breaches.

Peshmerga forces had moved into the restive district of Tooz, the district official said.

The official, Shallal Abdouli, however, admitted that ISIS militants had penetrated the province and that they were in control of part of Baghdad-Kirkuk highway.