Curfew imposed in Iraq’s Kirkuk after rival protests turn deadly | News

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At least one civilian killed as Kurds, Arabs hold demonstrations sparked by handover of local security headquarters to Kurdish party.

A curfew has been imposed in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk after rival protests between Kurdish and Arab residents descended into deadly violence, according to officials.

Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani ordered a curfew in Kirkuk and “extensive security operations in the areas affected by the riots”, a statement from his office said on Saturday.

He called on all parties to “play their part in preventing strife and preserving security, stability and order in Kirkuk Governorate”.

At least one civilian was killed and eight people were injured, a local official said, after days of brewing tensions in Kirkuk, which has historically been disputed between the federal government in Baghdad and the authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

Iraqi protesters block a road following protests in the multi-ethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk
Iraqi protesters block a road following protests in the multi-ethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk [AFP]

The identity and the circumstances surrounding the death were not immediately clear, the director of the local health authority Ziad Khalaf told the Agence France-Presse news agency, adding that those injured had been hit by bullets, stones or glass. He said a member of the security forces was among the injured.

Arab residents had blocked a major highway for days after the headquarters of local Iraqi security forces were reportedly handed over to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

In 2014, the KDP and the Peshmerga, the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region, took control of Kirkuk, an oil-producing region of northern Iraq. Federal troops expelled them in 2017 after an abortive referendum on Kurdish independence.

During the latest tensions, police were deployed to act as a buffer and keep apart the rival groups. Warning shots were fired on Saturday to force Kurdish demonstrators to disperse as they tried to reach the security headquarters, an AFP correspondent said.

Iraqi protesters block a road following protests in the multi-ethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk on September 2, 2023. - At least one civilian was killed and eight people were injured
At least one civilian was killed and eight people were injured [AFP]

The reporter said vehicles on a main avenue were set on fire.

Despite a history of rocky relations and tensions, al-Sudani’s government has generally managed to maintain cordial relations between Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish capital.

Al-Sudani, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, ordered security forces in the province “to fulfil their responsibilities in maintaining security and upholding the rule of law”.

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