Bishop Sako and his aides are safe. The terrorists were from Baghdad. Two are killed and one arrested. Their target was a Turkmen member of parliament whose home is near the Archbishop’s Palace. Sunni-Shia tensions rise.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – At 1.15 pm, two people opened fire against security guards standing in front of the walls that surround the Chaldean Archbishop’s Palace in Kirkuk. Terrorists fired from a white Kia car. The guards fired back immediately. Officers in a police car located about 100 metres from the building also intervened, firing at the terrorists. Two terrorists were killed and one was arrested. Five policemen were wounded.
No one inside the building was wounded. The bishop, who had just returned with a priest after visiting Holy Mary the Virgin Parish Church, was unharmed
No reason has been given for the attack, but police suggest that Jala Niftaji, a Turkmen member of the Iraqi parliament, might have been the target. Her home was attacked three days ago.
Preliminary reports suggest that the terrorists were not from Kirkuk. Identity papers found on the two who were killed indicate they lived in Baghdad.
“The killers could not be from here,” a source in Kirkuk told AsiaNews. “The Archbishop’s Palace is located on a central street, near the Governor’s house. It is well protected with soldiers and police. How could they think that they could carry out the attack? It is obvious they were not well prepared. Their ignorance is also evident from the fact that they fired at the Archbishop’s Palace even though they wanted to attack the home of the Turkmen leader.”
Ms Jala Niftaji is a member of the Iraqi Nationalist List party of Iyad Allawi. For weeks, the party has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister al Maliki and his predominantly Shia party.
Across the country, the situation is worrisome. A power vacuum has developed after al Maliki issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, for allegedly funding terrorist groups.
Al-Hashemi has rejected all the accusations, and fled to the north, to Iraqi Kurdistan. His party, the Iraqi National Movement (al-Iraqiya List) has been boycotting parliament, accusing al Maliki of trying to monopolise power.
Many analysts fear that the crisis could lead to civil war (see Youssouf al-Bakhtiar, “The conflict between Shiites and Sunnis for the sectarian division of Iraq
,” in AsiaNews
, 10 January 2012).