Turkish troops dug in on the southern border on Tuesday and turned their weapons towards Kurdish-run northern Iraq.
The Kurdish authorities are showing no sign of bowing despite intense international pressure and regional appeals to call off the vote which Iraq says is unconstitutional and a prelude to breaking up the country.
In Turkey, around 100 military vehicles, mostly tanks, took part in the drill near the Habur border gate, a crossing point into Iraq, the private Dogan news agency said. Vehicles carrying missiles and howitzers also participated.
With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey also fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.
Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to hold the referendum on support for independence from Iraq on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their autonomous region, and in disputed areas controlled by Kurdish forces but which are claimed by Baghdad.
Kirkuk: A car bomb explosion targeting a shop selling alcohol in northern city of Iraq killed two civilians and wounded eight, a security official said.
A car bomb in the same area targeted a security checkpoint shortly afterwards.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is supporting the 541 women and their children, said Iraq “must swiftly move to clarify its future plans for these individuals”.
Up to 2,000 battle-hardened militants were believed to be defending Tal Afar against around 50,000 government troops last week. It was unclear how many had retreated to al-‘Ayadiya.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the attack had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which often claims responsibility for large-scale attacks targeting Shiite civilians in Iraq’s capital.
Tal Afar was the latest objective in the U.S.-backed war on the jihadist group following the recapture in July of Mosul, where it declared its self-proclaimed caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The loan is aimed at helping the war-torn country implement reforms, improve public services and boost the performance of its state enterprises.
Officials have said they hope to announce victory in Tal Afar by Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday set to start in Iraq on September 2.
Mattis said that after retaking Tal Afar, Iraqi forces would move against the western Euphrates River valley. Brigadier General Andrew Croft, responsible for coalition air operations over Iraq, said that between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians remained in Tal Afar.
The city is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shi’ite volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north. About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to US and Iraqi military commanders.