An RT Arabic crew has been on the frontline in Kirkuk and managed to film dramatic scenes showing the very moments the Iraqi military forced its way into the Kurdish-controlled city Monday.
The exclusive footage brought by RT Arabic correspondent Bzurk Muhammad shows tanks and armored personnel carriers roaming the empty Kirkuk roads while brandishing red, black and green Iraqi flags. As they stream deeper into the city, thick white smoke starts filling the air. Men armed with rifles can be seen firing shots in the direction of the procession from a sidewalk, sparking panic among the onlookers.
As the Iraqi forces were preparing to take over, many of the locals opted to flee Kirkuk as it turned into a battle zone.
“Half the Kirkuk residents have left the city, worried because of the confrontation between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish forces. The residents are fleeing into Kurdistan’s other provinces and demanding the war and hostilities in Kirkuk be stopped,” Peshtivan Ahmad, a local resident, told RT.
With Kirkuk split between a Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, there were those who rejoiced at the sight of the Iraqi Army taking control over the city.
“Where are Asayish [Kurdish intelligence agency] and Peshmerga?! They have abandoned the city. We are calling on the Iraqi government to hold corrupt officials and crooks who squandered Kirkuk’s budget accountable,” Sheikh Emad Fili, a local resident, told RT.
The lack of concerted response to the Iraqi forces’ invasion from the Kurdish militias highlighted the discord between different Kurdish factions, as some of the militias were reported to leave Kirkuk and others stayed to face off with the Iraqi forces.
Iraqi Army soldier Ahmad Hussaine told Muhammad that the troops have been on a hunt for Peshmerga fighters who might be still holing up in the city.
“Thank God, our combat spirit is very high,” Hussaine said, adding that the Iraqi forces have been combing the terrain in search for Kurdish fighters since Sunday.
“Some eight Peshmerga fighters were killed at the beginning. And since then we haven’t found anyone,” he said, noting that although there have been other instances of clashes with Peshmerga, they have not resulted in casualties.
“They tried to resist. They opened fire at us, but no one was hurt.”