Saturday, 10 July 2010

Ethnic and sectarian violence hits Iraq’s oil-rich Kerkuk

By Marwan al-Ani
Azzaman, July 9, 2010

A wave of violence is sweeping Iraq’s Kerkuk, targeting Arabs and ethnic Turks in the oil-rich city.

Scenes of corpses dumped on the streets and open spaces in residential neighborhoods have returned to the city, prompting Arab and Turkmen leaders to call for the formation of vigilante groups for protection.

The violence seems to be organized as its victims are none but Arabs and Turkmen.

"We demand the formation of a joint Arab and Turkmen force … to protect the Arab and Turkmen ethnic groups whose members are continuously the target of abduction, killing and assassination," said Mohammed al-Jibouri, head of the Arab group in the city.

Jibouri indirectly blamed the Kurds the for latest upsurge in anti-Arab and anti-Turkmen violence, urging the government to let Arab and Turkmen armed militias serving in provincial cities and villages to enter Kirkuk.

"We are aware of who is in charge of the security file" in the city of Kirkuk, said Jibouri in reference to the Kurds."We cannot trust the security organs (in the city). Terrorism against us continues and there is no one to be held accountable," he said.

Jibouri asked the government and the Interior Ministry to launch an independent investigation to bring those behind the violence to account.

"Today we plead with the state and the Ministry of Interior to set a neutral commission to investigate the security events," he added.

Kurdish militias and their multifarious security organs are practically in control of Kirkuk.

There are more than 100 non-official headquarters manned by Kurdish security agents and armed militias belonging to the two major Kurdish political factions of Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, according to Jibouri.

Barzani, who is head of the Kurdish regional government, leads the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Talabani, who is the Iraqi president, heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Both factions have armed wings with tens of thousands of militias locally known as peshmerga.

Jibouri said it was time the government deployed units from the Iraqi Army in the city.

He said as U.S. troops were preparing to leave, the presence of Iraqi armed forces in Kirkuk was essential. The Kurds have blocked attempts by the government to deploy Iraqi troops in the city.

"We demand the presence of Iraqi troops in Kirkuk since we have reached this dangerous situation and before the departure of U.S. troops," Jibouri said.

"We need to protect our people since there is no let- up in operations of murder and kidnapping and there is no one to blame."

"Our leaders, our sons, our police officers, our civil servants all have become victims as a result of the conditions we are in and there is no one to heed our complaints," he said.

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