Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Wednesday accused the Kurds of providing a base for the operations of terrorist groups, promising to free all lands seized by the militants.
"We will never be silent that Arbil become a base of operation for Daash (Arabic first letters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria or ISIs), Baath, Al Qaeda and other terrorists," Maliki said in his weekly televised speech.
Maliki called on the authorities of Arbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, to stop the activities of opposition politicians and some political figures of Sunni insurgent groups, Xinhua reported.
For years, the Shia Iraqi prime minister has been at odds with the Kurds, and relations between the central government in Baghdad and authorities in Kurdistan further deteriorated after Sunni insurgents took control of several provinces adjacent to the Kurdish region.
Regional leader Masoud Barzani said the Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, took over the disputed areas after the Iraqi security forces abandoned their positions as the insurgency rolled on.
On July 3, Barzani asked the regional parliament to prepare for an independence referendum for the Kurdish region as well as the disputed areas adjacent to the country`s northern region.
The disputed areas are mainly ethnically mixed with the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans, as well as other races. The Kurds demanded expansion of their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala.
Maliki also said the Iraqi security forces were advancing toward the provinces that were seized earlier by the Sunni militants, including those who are linked to the ISIS.
"The battle course has been changed from repelling the attacks to advancing, clearing and chasing those (militants). The provinces are being freed one after another," he said.
Maliki`s comments came as the country has been struggling with the worst violence in years. About a month ago, armed Sunni insurgents, led by the ISIS, launched a surprise offensive on Iraqi security forces.
The insurgents quickly captured a large chunk of the country`s northern and western territories as Iraqi troops fled abandoning their posts and military equipment.