Kurdish leader orders independence referendum

ERBIL – Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq are to press ahead with an independence referendum that could see Iraq divided between a Kurdish north and Arab south.

Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani on Thursday instructed Kurdish lawmakers to prepare a referendum.

In a parliamentary session, Barzani assessed the latest repercussions of ISIL’s advance in northern Iraq. After the Iraqi army withdrew, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stepped in and took control of some areas that the Iraqi government in Baghdad considers under its jurisdiction, including oil-rich Kirkuk.

During the session, Barzani said the Baghdad government had lost the control of these areas.

On Monday, he told British news channel the BBC: “We will hold a referendum in Kurdistan and will respect and be bound by the decision of our people, and hope that others will do likewise.”

He also emphasized that any potential referendum would be for all citizens living in areas controlled by the regional government, including areas where the Peshmerga are in control. 

Meanwhile, at least 18 Iraqi civilians were killed in Ramadi by armed insurgents led by the ISIL fighters on Thursday, local people said.

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