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Iraqi Kurds Storm Parliament After Leader Steps Down


The parliament building of Iraq's Kurdistan region is seen in Irbil, northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2017. Angry Kurds stormed the building Sunday after Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani announced he was stepping down as president of the self-ruled region.

Protesters in Irbil stormed the parliament building Sunday after Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani announced he is stepping down as president of the self-ruled northern Kurdish region.

Angry Kurds attacked members of parliament and journalists inside the building, while a crowd outside waved Kurdish flags in support of Barzani.

In a televised speech, Barzani announced his resignation as of November 1. He asked parliament to dissolve the position of the president and distribute its duties among the Kurdish prime minister, parliament and the judiciary.

Barzani said the Iraqi government used the September Kurdish independence referendum as "an excuse" to retake much of the territory the Kurds had controlled for years after peshmerga and coalition forces ousted the Islamic State militants who captured vast swaths of northern Iraq in 2014. The referendum resulted in more than 92 percent of Iraqi Kurds choosing independence.

A still image taken from a video shows Kurdish President Masoud Barzani giving a televised speech in Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2017.
A still image taken from a video shows Kurdish President Masoud Barzani giving a televised speech in Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2017.

​Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the independence referendum illegal, and in response sent his forces to retake control of disputed areas that were in control of the Kurds.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority had been clashing for several weeks in mostly low-level firefights until Friday, when they agreed to a cease-fire, and Kurdish forces abandoned the land they held, largely without resistance.

In recent days the government in Iraq's Kurdistan region offered to freeze the referendum results and start dialogue with the central government in Baghdad, but Abadi rejected that offer.

Abadi said in a statement his government would accept only an annulment of the referendum and respect for the country's constitution.

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