Kurdish forces abandon long-held lands to Iraqi army and Shia fighters

Kurdish forces have abandoned lands they had controlled since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, allowing Iraqi troops to move into disputed areas that had been central to hopes for an independent Kurdistan with expanded borders.

In a stunning collapse, peshmerga units loyal to the de facto Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, pulled out of the towns of Bashiqa, Khanaqin and Sinjar less than a day after surrendering the city of Kirkuk to the Iraqi military and allied Shia forces.

The withdrawals on Tuesday shattered ambitions to use a referendum on independence held on 25 September to consolidate a Kurdish hold on towns seized in the three-year war against Islamic State.

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