Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly back independence, first result shows

93 percent voted yes to a Kurdistan independent of Baghdad, election commission says

A Syrian Kurd takes a selfie, in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on 26 September 2017, during a gathering in support of the referendum (AFP) MEE staff Wednesday 27 September 2017 13:45 UTC Last update: Wednesday 27 September 2017 15:24 UTC Topics: KurdishVote Tags: Iraqi Kurdistan , Iraq , Baghdad , Masoud Barzani Show comments Voters in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq overwhelmingly backed the Kurdistan Regional Government's push to break away from Baghdad, official preliminary referendum figures showed on Wednesday.

The election commission said 92.73 percent voted yes compared to about 7.27 percent who said no. The turnout was 72.61 percent.

The result of Monday's is non-binding. World powers and all of the KRG's regional neighbours, aside from Israel, have opposed or expressed concern over the bid for independence. Baghdad rejects the result.

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has called for the referendum to be annulled, has demanded control of KRG airports and airlines are cancelling flights to the KRG on request of Baghdad.

Iraq's central government protested that the KRG included areas it controlled outside the region's original 1991 borders in the referendum. Iraqi MPs on Wednesday called on Abadi to send troops to the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk.

Turkey has threatened to cut border access and oil exports out of the KRG. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said Turkish troops could "arrive any night" in Iraqi Kurdistan if Ankara wished.

The KRG president, Masoud Barzani, says the result is meant to provide a mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighbouring countries over the peaceful secession of the region from Iraq.

More to follow.