An Iraqi policeman man's a checkpoint in the multiethnic city of Kirkuk. On the blast wall behind him it reads in Arabic, 'The police are at the service of people'. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Political disputes -- both local and from across Iraq -- are being violently settled in Kirkuk and adding to insecurity in the multi-ethnic province, complained Rebwar Talabani, deputy-head of its provincial council.
“Regional as well as domestic political affairs have a direct impact on the security situation in Kirkuk,” Talabani told Rudaw. “The groups try to settle their political scores in Kirkuk,” he said.
Over the past 10 years Kirkuk has suffered some of the deadliest attacks by insurgent and radical Islamist groups, who often target crowded markets and offices of political parties.
Talabani said that Kirkuk’s open borders were a problem, allowing freedom of movement to “terrorist groups.”
In the latest violence, seven people were killed and several injured in an attack on a game center in Tuz Khormatu. The provincial town lies in a swathe of territory that is claimed by both the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north and the Arab central government in Baghdad.
Kirkuk lies in the heart of Iraq’s disputed territories, claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. But the Kurds, with 26 seats in the provincial council, also occupy the main security and police positions.
Talabani said that, even though Kirkuk is under Baghdad’s jurisdiction, it has not received much support from the central government on improving security.
“The government sometimes does not support us,” he said. “The interior ministry, which is responsible for security, does not have any good security plans,” he added, complaining that local authorities themselves are left the task of drawing up a security strategy. “Now each province has to make its own security plans.”
Talabani said that a 3.5 billion Iraqi dinar project to dig a security trench around the city of Kirkuk, to reduce violence in the provincial capital, will mainly focus on areas connecting it with places like Tikrit and Hawija.
Kirkuk is within close proximity of Iraq’s predominantly Arab Sunni areas, which have been hotbeds of insurgent groups such as Ansar al-Sunnah and other al-Qaeda affiliates.