Iraqi forces gain control of main Kirkuk military base from Kurds

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Iraqi forces said Monday they had seized the main military base in oil-rich Kirkuk province from Kurdish fighters following a mounting standoff over a controversial independence referendum.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command, which groups all pro-government forces, said "anti-terrorist units" had taken over the K1 military base northwest of the disputed city of Kirkuk.

The base was the first objective in an operation to retake military bases and oil fields in the disputed Kirkuk province which Kurdish peshmerga fighters took during the fightback against ISIS.

Iraqi forces were able to take control of the base following the withdrawal of peshmerga fighters loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a political party loyal to Iraqi President Fuad Masum.

Established by the US army in 2003, the K1 military base was the headquarters of the Iraqi army's 12th Division.

The peshmerga seized control of the base in mid-2014, taking advantage of the chaos during the lightning offensive that saw ISIS seize large parts of Iraq. The Kurdish fighters ordered Iraqi troops to withdraw, requiring that they remove their uniforms and confiscating their weapons.

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