Saturday, August 26, 2006

Three Turkmen shot dead in Kirkuk after Turkmen-Kurd fighting in nearbytown

Sat Aug 23, 6:20 PM ET
KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) - Three Turkmen were shot dead by police in Iraq
(news - web sites)'s northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Kirkuk GovernorAbdul Rahman Mustafa said. The deaths came a day after fighting between Turkmen and Kurds in nearbyTuz Khurmatu left eight dead on both sides, while two more Turkmen werekilled by US soldiers as the US-led coalition faced the spectre ofgrowing ethnic fighting. The three Turkmen were gunned down after they opened fire on a policebuilding during a demonstration, Mustafa said. "Elements seeking to destabilize Kirkuk ... exploited the peacefuldemonstration and opened fire on the police building without anyjustification, prompting the police to return fire," Mustafa told AFP. "This led to the killing of three of the demonstrators," he said. Three policemen, including an officer, were also wounded. Irsan Kirkuly, a Turkmen member of the city's local council, earliertold AFP that three Turkmen were arrested during the protest. Three cars, including a police vehicle, were destroyed. Colonel Bill Mayville, commander of US-led coalition forces in Kirkuk,met with representatives of all communities in the multi-ethnic city --which is home to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians -- in aneffort to restore calm. "The situation is now secure in the town," Mustafa said, after mostresidents had rushed to their homes and shop-owners shut their stores. Demonstrators included residents of Tuz Khurmatu, where fighting betweenKurds and Turkmen on Friday left eight dead on both sides and anothertwo Turkmen were killed by US soldiers. According to Kahya Galib, a member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, thefighting in Tuz Khurmatu, 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Kirkuk,broke out after unidentified elements fired a rocket-propelled grenadeat a Shiite religious site revered by Shiite Turkmen residents. A town official told AFP that eight people, five Turkmen and threeKurds, were killed in the clashes, which he blamed on elements of thetoppled Baath Party of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (news - websites). Ten Turkmen and three Kurds were injured, said Tuz Khurmatu's Kurdishmayor Mohammad Rashid Mohammad. US soldiers also killed two Turkmen during a demonstration in TuzKhurmatu Friday, a US military spokesman said. Friday's fighting broke out amid deep tensions in the town between itsKurdish majority and Arab and Turkmen minorities. Tuz Khurmatu was sealed off by US troops Saturday, said an AFP reporteron the site. Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald said 4th Infantry Division soldiersentered the town in response to reports of "Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence"erupting during what he thought was a Turkmen demonstration. Upon entering the town, a US military patrol was fired on by a group offour Turkmen, MacDonald said. The soldiers responded and "killed two of them and slightly wounded twoothers," he added. "Local leaders were able to calm down the situation and disperse thecrowd. An investigation is ongoing." Captain George Swenson, who heads coalition forces in Tuz Khurmatu, toldAFP that the town was "stable but still on knife" Saturday. Tensions have risen in Tuz Khurmatu as the Kurds have demanded that thetown be transferred to the Kurdish-majority governorate of Kirkuk fromthe Arab-majority province of Salahuddin, in which it currently lies. A Turkmen representative in the Kurdish city of Arbil, Jawdat al-Najar,said the clashes in Tuz Khurmatu were provoked by "those who don't wantstability in Iraq." Najar, who is president of the Turkmen cultural association, called onTurkmen and Kurds to avoid any further confrontation and find a peacefulsettlement. About 200 Kurds protested outside the Kirkuk government building lastSunday demanding that they be incorporated within the province. Arab police officers complained last week at a checkpoint outside thetown that Kurds were dominating life in Tuz Khurmatu, grabbing all keygovernment positions and businesses since Saddam's fall in April.