Polls open in northern Iraq as Kurds cast ballots in referendum on whether to support independence from Baghdad.
Official results of the independence referendum are expected by Tuesday
People in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan are voting in an independence referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition.
Polls opened at 05:00 GMT with balloting also taking place in the disputed areas between the northern city of Erbil and the capital Baghdad, as well as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which is ethnically mixed.
The central government in Baghdad, which strongly opposes the referendum, sought control of the region's international border posts and airports on Sunday, in anticipation of Monday's vote.
Iraq's government has also called on foreign countries to stop importing oil from the Kurdish region and to deal with them instead.
The Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani also said he would seek talks with Iraq's central government on how to implement the outcome of the vote.
"If we have a constructive dialogue, then we can give it even more time, in order to secure better relations between the Kurds and Baghdad," he said.
“Proud to cast my vote earlier this morning and partake in this historic day, the day of the #KurdistanReferendum” he said casting his vote.
About 2,065 polling stations are open for 10 hours. A total of 5.6 million people are eligible to vote in Kurdistan and other Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Iraq, according to the election commission.
Voters will be asked: "Do you want the Kurdistan region and Kurdish areas outside the region to become an independent state?"
The referendum has raised alarm in Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - over concerns it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to break away.
Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish population at an estimated 14 million.
The social media poll of the referendum ran days ago suggested majority Kurds do not want Kurdistan independence.