By Ibrahim Saleh
Prominent Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday ordered his fighters to leave Kirkuk and close their temporary headquarters in the province within 72 hours, al-Sadr’s media office said in a statement.
According to the same statement, al-Sadr also told members of the Saraya al-Salam, his Sadrist movement’s military wing, to immediately close all their offices in the oil-rich province.
“Authority in Kirkuk, and in all provinces of Iraq, must be gradually returned to the hands of [government] security forces,” read the statement.
Recent weeks have seen Iraqi government forces move into several parts of the country “disputed” between Baghdad and northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), including Kirkuk .
Tension has mounted between Iraq’s central government and the KRG since Sept. 25, when the latter held an illegitimate referendum on Kurdish regional independence.