Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Clash between army troops and Kurdish forces feared to prompt ethnic conflict

Kirkuk, April 26 (AKnews) – A clash between Kurdish security forces and a unit of the Iraqi army troops in Kirkuk on Monday that left three killed is feared to develop into an ethnic conflict in oil-rich city.

On Monday, an Iraqi military convoy passing through Atlas Street, one of the most crowded streets of Kirkuk, opened fire at a taxi driver and killed him on the spot.

The incident prompted Kurdish security forces near the scene to intercept the convoy and arrest the troops. Soon after, a large force of Iraqi army troops entered Kirkuk to have the arrested released which set off a skirmish that developed into an exchange of gunfire between the Kurdish security forces and the army troops.

Kirkuk mayor Kamil Salayi said the conduct of the Iraqi army troops in the streets of the city was "improper" and disseminated fear that "affected the semi-stability of the city".

"Crowded streets like Atlas… are not for military vehicles to move around on," he said, "We hope a committee formed to investigate the incident can conclude the initial cause of the incident and disclose the guilty party".

Kirkuk security forces media official Farhad Hamaali, told AKnews that the Iraqi army troops "have no duties in Kirkuk city…maintaining security inside the city is the duty of the security forces, not the army".

An Iraqi Intelligence officer who declined to be named told AKnews that the incident will negatively affect the psychology of the people in addition to developing into an ethnic-based dispute.

Kuridsh politicians have often accused the the Iraqi army in Kirkuk, mainly formed of Arab ethnics, of supporting the Arabs in their disputes with the Kurds.

The intelligence officer criticized the role of the media in covering the incident saying they should wait for the results of the investigations before judging who was to blame.

Two Kurdish security personnel and one civilian were killed in the incident in addition to three civilian injuries, according to the latest reports.

According to some reports, the Kurdish force intercepted the Iraqi army troops and opened fire, while other media sources said the Iraqi army troops attacked the Kirkuk security forces as part of their plan to put pressure on the Kurds so that the Iraqi army can take over maintenance the city's security which is currently the duty of the police and other security forces.

Sarhad Qadir the director of Kirkuk districts police, said on Monday that it was the Iraqi army trrops who initiated the gunfire and killed two security personnel from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters.

Qadir told AKnews on Monday that a committee had been formed between the Iraqi army and Kirkuk police to investigate the incident. He said the commander of the troops was the brother of the Iraqi Army's 12th division in Kirkuk.

Qadir explained that the man who opened fire at the Kurdish security forces was a guard of the army commander's brother.

Reported by Nabaz Rostan


26/04/2011 15:29


Raw over "heavy presence" of Peshmarga forces in Sulaimaniyah

Sulaimaniyah, April 26 (AKnews) – A heavy presence of Peshmarga (Kurdish defense forces) in Sulaimaniyah city following the violent protests in the city is driving a wedge between the ruling parties and the opposition forces.xopishandan slemani

The Peshmarga forces were heavily deployed to Sulaimaniyah after the security forces, trying to disperse demonstrators in the city, clashed with the protesters leaving at least 200 injured last week. The Peshmarga Affairs minister said the forces were there to protect people and maintain stability in the city.

The protesters in Sulaimaniyah have been calling for political reforms including a complete dissolution of the Kurdistan government and the end of corruption and nepotism. So far 10 people including two policemen have been killed in the protests and over 600 people injured since the protest erupted in late February.

Opposition forces believe the stationing of Peshmarga forces is "illegal" because it is not in the authority of the Peshmarga minister to do so, while the ruling parties believe those forces can remain in Sulaimaniyah as long as they work to "normalize" the situations.

"The Peshmarga Minister does not have the authority to mobilize forces," , said Burhan Rashid, a parliamentarian from the opposition movement – Gorran,  "and under the demo law, apart from the police forces, the Asayish (Kurdish intelligence police) and Peshmarga forces are not allowed to move."

The president of the Kurdistan Region has the power to mobilize the Peshmarga forces however, as he is the commander general of the armed forces.

Rashid described the mobilization of the Peshmarga as well as the use of Asayish forces as "unconstitutional". "…today, there is nothing left in the Kurdistan Region called law," he said, "neither is there any legitimate institution to resort to."

The opposition forces have been calling for a complete government dissolution on the grounds that it has lost its legitimacy after the security forces opened fire on the protesters.

Goran Azad, a member of the Legal Committee in the parliament of the Kurdistan Region from the Kurdistani bloc which includes the two ruling parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – seems to think otherwise. " The mobilization of forces (internally) is within the powers of the Peshmarga Minister" he said.

"Those forces have been moved to normalize the situations not for suppressing people or any political force because the Peshmarga forces have to be away from political conflicts and has to be used only for supporting the internal forces" Azad said.

"The opinion that suggests the mobilization of forces is the authority of the President of the Region is actually about moving forces to outside the borders of the region" he continued.
He justified the mobilization of those forces by accusing the demonstrations of being "unlawful".

According to the demo law passed by the parliament of the Kurdistan Region, demonstrators are protected by the civil activities forces and the internal forces provided that they are lawful and licensed.

The demo law requires that demonstrators obtain prior permission from the authorities. This law has been criticized by the opposition forces because it gives the authorities the power to reject demonstrations against the ruling parties of the government.

Political activist, Sherko Jawdat, says the Peshmarga forces have to be used to protect the borders of Kurdistan against external forces, "but they have come to the Azadi Square (or Sara Square) in Sulaimaniyah and other cities of the region, committing violence against citizens."

"They shouldn't be stationed in these areas because they could be used to clamp down on citizens which is against the constitution and law" he said.

Kurdistan Region's Peshmarga Affairs Minister Jafaar Sheikh Mustafa, says the forces were deployed to the city by request of the security committee of Sulaimaniyah, "and they will stay here until the situation is normalized and risks are over".

Mustafa also argued that more than 80% of those forces in Sulaimaniyah are police and other internal forces.

Reported by Dilshad Saifaddin
Edited by Raber Y. Aziz

26/04/2011 13:47