Bomb kills 3 Iraqi soldiers

Ethnic tensions continue to run high in northern region

August 02, 2008|By Ned Parker and Saif Hameed | Ned Parker and Saif Hameed,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD - Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing yesterday in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, where relations remained frayed among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen after a suicide bombing and ethnic clashes earlier in the week.

The bomb targeted a convoy of Iraqi army vehicles, killing three soldiers and wounding two others, the military said.

Iraq's government warned local factions that it would not allow any party to decide unilaterally the region's future, in reaction to a threat by Kurdish provincial council members to declare Kirkuk a part of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdish officials are worried that the national parliament might approve an electoral procedural law, delaying local elections in Kirkuk and imposing a quota system for the 40-seat provincial council. Parliament is scheduled to discuss the matter during an emergency session tomorrow.

Such a move would force the Kurds, who dominate the current system, to split power with Arabs and Turkmen. The electoral law also calls for the removal of the current Iraqi security forces from Kirkuk, which Arabs and Turkmen say is controlled by Kurds.

"The Iraqi government is refusing any individual step to change the situation in Kirkuk, and it is considering it illegal and unconstitutional," government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in a statement Friday.

Dabbagh warned that increasing ing tensions could be exploited by the country's enemies.

On Monday, a suicide bomber blew herself up at a Kurdish rally protesting lawmakers in the national parliament. The bombing sparked a rampage by Kurdish protesters, who attacked the office of the local Turkmen party. Turkmen guards answered with gunfire.

The suicide attack and clashes left at least 25 people dead. Local security commanders blamed the explosion on al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Kurds believe that Kirkuk belongs to them and see claiming it as justice for their oppression under Saddam Hussein, who forcibly expelled them from the province and resettled Arabs in their place. Similar tensions abound across northern Iraq, from the province of Nineveh to sections of Diyala that also witnessed Hussein's policy of uprooting Kurds and replacing them with Arabs.

The rift threatens to delay provincial elections across Iraq if parliament cannot decide on Kirkuk's status. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of parliament recently after they were surprised by a secret vote on Kirkuk written into the election law.

Neighboring Turkey opposes making Kirkuk part of Iraqi Kurdistan. Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, that he backed a quota system.

Also yesterday, the U.S. military announced that the Iraqi army had detained two suspected members of al-Qaeda in Iraq who are thought to have been involved in a June 26 suicide bombing by a policeman that killed three U.S. Marines and 18 other people, including prominent tribal sheiks, in Karmah, in western Anbar province.

Ned Parker and Saif Hameed write for the Los Angeles Times.

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