Kurdish “peshmarga” paramilitary troops took control of the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk earlier today after government forces fled. From the New York Times:
“The army disappeared,” said Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk, two days after militants aligned with the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria swept across the porous border from Syria to overrun Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and then began a thrust toward Baghdad, capturing the town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, on Wednesday.
The apparent involvement of Kurdish pesh merga forces drew new lines in the patchwork of allegiances and alliances, adding disciplined troops whose allegiance to the central government in Baghdad is limited. With its oil riches, Kirkuk has long been at the center of a political and economic dispute between Kurds and successive Arab governments in Baghdad.
It appears at this point that Kurdish forces are aligning themselves with the Iraqi national government. Iraqi Kurds control a relatively autonomous region in the country’s north—though Kirkuk is outside the borders of that autonomous zone.
For anyone who needs a refresher on the relative locations of Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, and Syria (guilty), here’s the map:
Insurgents have reached the city of Samarra, which is 70 miles north of Baghdad.