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Iraq: Tension runs high in Kirkuk

   
InternationalEthnic tension was rising in northern Iraq\'s oil-rich, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk on Friday after one Kurd was shot dead by armed Arabs and police killed two Arabs in a subsequent shootout.

The killings follow a bloody demonstration on Wednesday by Turkmens and Arabs protesting Kurdish plans for control of Kirkuk. Iraqi Kurdish groups have drawn up plans for a federal Iraq under which Kirkuk will be part of an autonomous Kurdish region in the north of the country.

Kurdish peshmergas opened fire on Arab and Turkmen protesters demanding that Kirkuk remain under the administration of a central Iraqi government, killing an estimated five protestors.

Police said Kurdish gunmen opened fire as the protesters tried to converge on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) office and that two protesters were killed. The local hospital said it had treated 26 wounded people.

On Friday, Kirkuk Police Chief Gen. Turhan Youssef said one Kurd was killed and one wounded by Arabs who shot them as they were walking in an Arab neighborhood on Thursday night.

Jalal Jawher, the local head of the PUK, said armed Arabs were roaming the city and hunting down Kurds. After the gunmen killed one Kurd and wounded another, there was a shootout with police, who killed two of the attackers and wounded several, Jawher said. \"Some armed Arabs tried to attack Kurds last night. ... Then the police clashed with the armed Arabs and killed two and wounded several,\" he said.

Turhan said a group of Arabs shot at both Kurds and police, but that he had no information about casualties among the attackers.

Turkmens outraged
Kirkuk\'s 1 million-plus residents are divided into roughly equal parts among three ethnic groups -- Arab, Turkmen and Kurd.

A statement from the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) protested Kurdish moves to integrate Kirkuk into a proposed Kurdish region in a federal Iraq and said the Turkmens can never accept \"claims by one of the groups that have lived as brothers for years for more rights than others and attempts to oppress others.\"

The press statement released by ITC\'s office in Ankara said that Turkmens and Arabs had never asserted during the mass demonstration that Kirkuk was an Arab or Turkmen city and added, \"Although Arabs and Turkmens form the majority in Kirkuk, they claimed that Kirkuk was an Iraqi city. But groups opposing us showed their real aims by their aggressive attitude. It is clear that they were neither in favor of a democratic Iraq nor of federal state based on the equality of ethnic groups.

\"Some groups lacking a democratic culture could not tolerate a democratic mass demonstration aimed at maintaining Iraq\'s unity and they decided to enter the new year in a bloody fashion,\" it read and warned that instability and partition in Iraq would affect not only Iraq but also its region.

Kurdish academic found dead in Mosul
Further north, in the city of Mosul, the dean of political science of Mosul University was found with two gunshots to the head. Adel Jabar Abid Mustafa was kidnapped from his home Wednesday night and his body was found on Thursday, the dean\'s brother, Salim Abid Mustafa, said.

He said he did not know why his brother was killed, and police had no comment on the reported assassination. Gunmen in Mosul have killed members of a new Iraqi police force formed by the U.S.-led occupation authority and at least three judges appointed by the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.
  

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