(Reuters) – Iraqi Kurds took control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk on Thursday after government forces abandoned their posts in the face of a sweeping Sunni Islamist rebel push towards Baghdad that threatens Iraq’s future as a unified state.
Peshmerga fighters, the security forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, swept into bases in Kirkuk vacated by the army, a peshmerga spokesman said.
“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” said Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now.”
Kurds have long dreamed of taking Kirkuk and its huge oil reserves. They regard the city, just outside their autonomous region, as their historical capital, and peshmerga units were already present in an uneasy balance with government forces.