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Kirkuk governor declares overnight curfew after Kurdish independence vote

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) security forces, affiliated to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, keep watch in the streets of the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, during the vote on the Kurdish independence on September 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The head of police department in Iraq’s northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk says the governor has imposed a curfew following the closing of polls in a controversial referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region from the central government in Baghdad.

Brigadier Sarhad Qader said the security measure was adopted on Monday night to “protect the civilians and the communities” in the multi-ethnic city, located 230 kilometers (143 miles) north of Baghdad.

Qader says the curfew will be lifted at 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT).

On August 29, 22 of the 24 councilors present in the 41-member Kirkuk council voted in favor of holding the Kurdish independence referendum.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the vote by Kirkuk provincial council as a wrong move, adding that the planned referendum was illegal and worthless.

Iraqi government spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, also lambasted the vote as “illegal and unconstitutional.”

On September 14, the Iraqi parliament voted on the dismissal of 68-year-old Najmiddin Karim as the governor of Kirkuk province.

The provincial council, in return, condemned the decision; with its head Ribwar al-Talabani claiming only the council had the power to remove Karim.

Kurdish independence referendum turnout at 76 percent

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish-language Rudaw television network, which is affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani, reported that turnout in the Kurdish vote stood at 76 percent at 5:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) – one hour before polling stations closed.

An Iraqi Kurdish woman casts her vote in the Kurdish independence referendum in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Polling stations opened their doors at 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT), and closed at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT). The final results would be announced within 72 hours.

On Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said the Damascus government doesn't recognize the Kurdish referendum, denouncing any measure that could break up neighboring Iraq.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem speaks during a press conference in the capital Damascus on May 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a military intervention in Iraq in response to the Kurdish vote.

“Our military is not (at the border) for nothing. We could arrive suddenly one night,” Erdogan said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on September 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Turkish president said his country would take political, economic as well as military measures against KRG’s steps toward independence from Baghdad government.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters on Monday that the Kurdish independence vote could “lead to developments and happenings that could affect all people of the region and especially Kurdish people.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi speaks to reporters in Tehran, Iran, on September 25, 2017. (Photo by IRNA)

Qasemi reiterated that Iran supports the "territorial integrity and democratic process" in Iraq.

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