Three weeks after Iraqi Kurds voted for independence, Iraqi soldiers have moved into Kirkuk, seizing the provincial government headquarters.
They arrived in a convoy of armoured vehicles from Iraq’s U.S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Force, pulling down the Kurdish flag while leaving the Iraqi flag flying.
They also captured the headquarters for the North Oil Company.
In a statement, the US state department said that it was “very concerned by reports of violence around Kirkuk”, adding that that they ‘strongly urge all parties to avoid provocations that can be exploited by Iraq’s enemies’.
The advance is the most decisive step Baghdad has taken yet to block the independence bid of the Kurds, who have governed an autonomous part of northern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
It comes just two weeks after the two parties fought side by side against so-called Islamic State, hinting at a country that could once again turn on itself after disposing of a common enemy.