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Published: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 5:15:02 PM
Updated: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 5:15:02 PM

Kurdish forces in full control of oil city Kirkuk after Iraq army flees

ARBIL Iraq (Reuters) - Kurdish forces are in full control of Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk after the federal army abandoned its bases there, a Kurdish military spokesman said on Thursday.

Kirkuk lies at the heart of a long-running dispute between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in the north of the country and have an armed force called the peshmerga.

"The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga," said Jabbar Yawar, referring to the Kurdish forces. "No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now".

The move came after Iraqi soldiers fled their posts in the city of Mosul and several other towns and cities in the face of an onslaught by radical Sunni insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

ISIL said in a statement it was now advancing on Baghdad.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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