Tensions rise in Iraq’s Kirkuk as Kurdish leader sends in militias

March 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Tensions rise in Iraq’s Kirkuk as Kurdish leader sends in militias

 http://www.azzaman.com/english/index.asp?fname=news%5C2011-03-02%5Ckurd.htm

 By Nidhal al-Laithi

 Azzaman, March 2,2011

Tensions are high in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as the head of Kurdish autonomous region has deployed new units of his Kurdish militias known locally as Peshmerga.

 Massoud Barzani, in comments on his decision to send in his militias, said he wanted to protect the Kurds in the city. However, he did not say from whom.

 The presence of Kurdish militias has ignited harsh criticism from both Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk who charge that the Kurds are intent to resort to force to annex the city.

The beleaguered Barzani faces tough choices as tens of thousands of Kurds have been shouting for the first time slogans demanding his departure.

 His decision to send in his militias to quell demonstrations in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya was met with a barrage of criticism and further defiance by the protesters.

 The heavily armed Kurdish militias arrived in Kirkuk shortly before the city authorities had decided to clamp a 24 hour curfew early this week.

 Some 5,000 Kurdish militiamen were sent to the city by Barzani.

 Kirkuk is part of the so-called disputed territory over which Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen are battling

 Hassan Turhan of the Turkmen Front, a political umbrella, denounced the deployment of Kurdish militias in Kirkuk, and asked from their withdrawal.

 “We the Turkmen reject the presence of Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk because it clearly violates paragraph 121 of the constitution,” Turhan said.

 Reports from Kirkuk say Barzani sent in additional militias as his opponents were preparing for a protest against Kurdish practices in the city and the deteriorating conditions of public services.

 Barzani controls the city through his militias and has so far turned down calls by Arabs and Turkmen for them to be replaced by Iraqi troops.

 Both Arabs and Turkmen fear that Barzani “has political objectives behind his decision to deploy Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk,” Turhan said.

 But Turhan said he and his Arab allies were trying their best not to let the situation escalate.

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