Kurds take Iraq's Kirkuk, bomb targets minister

KIRKUK (AFP) - Kurdish forces took control of the disputed Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk on Thursday to protect it from jihadists, after which a bomb targeted a Kurdish security minister, officials said.

Iraqi Kurds want to incorporate Kirkuk province into their autonomous region, a move Baghdad strongly has strongly opposed in a bitter, long-running dispute with them.

"We tightened our control of Kirkuk city and are awaiting orders to move toward the areas that are controlled by Isil," Brigadier General Shirko Rauf of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces said.

He was referring to jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has spearheaded a major offensive this week that has overrun all of one province and parts of Kirkuk and two other provinces.

Mr Jaafar Mustafa, the Kurdish minister responsible for the peshmerga, was targeted in a bombing as he returned from visiting units southwest of Kirkuk city, Gen Rauf said.

Mustafa survived, but the roadside bomb killed a peshmerga fighter.

Another bomb targeted a peshmerga officer in the Dibs area of Kirkuk province, wounding him and killing his son, who was one of his guards, Gen Rauf added.

Kirkuk Governor Najm al-Din Karim said peshmerga forces had filled gaps left by Iraqi soldiers who withdrew from their positions in the province.

"Army forces are no longer present, as happened in Mosul and Salaheddin," Mr Karim said.

In a statement on the Kurdistan government's official website, peshmerga ministry secretary general Jabbar Yawar criticised federal security personnel as being "only interested in collecting their salaries," and said Baghdad had been warned they would not hold up.

"Peshmerga forces are in control of the majority of the Kurdistan region outside of (Kurdistan Regional Government) administration," Mr Yawar said, referring to the disputed areas.

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