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Iraqi-Kurdish crisis: tension flares between Kurds and Shi'ite militia in town near Kirkuk

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Iraqi-Kurdish crisis: tension flares between Kurds and Shi'ite militia in town near Kirkuk

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Fighting has flared in Iraq between Kurdish forces and Shi’ite militia in a town south of the contested city of Kirkuk.

No one was reportedly hurt, but the brief clashes in Tuz Khurmatu on Saturday are the latest sign of tension following an independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan last month.

In Kirkuk, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are refusing to budge despite Baghdad ordering them to surrender key military positions.

Kurdish Peshmerga spokesman, Brigadier General Bahjed Ahmed Salim said: “The Shi’ite militias are over there. Their goal is to cross the bridge and move into Kirkuk. We are taking our own measures.”

Baghdad still lays claim to the oil-rich province and city which fell under Kurdish control in 2014 after the Iraqi army was ousted from Northern Iraq by ISIL.

Despite being united in the fight against ISIL, thousands of Peshmerga fighters have been deployed to Kirkuk amid fears of a possible assault by Iraqi federal forces backed by Shiite militias.