05/15/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Kirkuk oil behind anti-Kurdish suicide bombings

A wave of attacks in northern Iraq on the border with Kurdistan sets off alarm bells in the Kurdish region which had been hitherto spared the type of violence that prevails elsewhere. Locals complain about increasing impediments on movement like the growing number of checkpoints and controls. Kurdish government representative says attacks aim at undermining the only example of democracy and development in the area; he expects tensions to stay high till the end of the year when a vote over Kirkuk will take place. This issue tops Kurdistan’s agenda.

Ankawa (AsiaNews) – “Even though attacks in northern Iraq are increasing, Kurdistan won’t plunge in the type of violence seen in the rest of Iraq”. Saywan Barzani, top Kurdish representative in Europe, is convinced of this as he spoke to AsiaNews about the rising incidents of suicide bombings whose aim is to destroy the “only example of democracy (Kurdistan) in the region. At the same time he admits that the “risk for attacks shall remain high until the end of the year when the vote on Kirkuk will take place.”

The al Qaeda-led Islamic State in Iraq group yesterday claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bombing against headquarters of the National Guard and Kurdish Peshmerga forces that killed 50 people in the hitherto peaceful town of Makhmour, just outside the autonomous Kurdish region, which has been largely spared the kind of terrorist and sectarian violence commonplace elsewhere in the country.

The attack in Makhmour was the second in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq in four days.

The Islamic State in Iraq group had said it was also behind another truck bomb which killed d14 people last Wednesday in the city of Arbil, capital of Kurdistan.

The situation is tense and many Iraqis already believe that “the honeymoon in the north is over”.

Residents in Ankawa tell a sad story: “There are more and more check points every day. Moving from area to another of the region gets harder and harder because police stop you for your ID card. For the past few weeks things have been more difficult.”

The Kurdistan Region Government condemned what it called the cowardly attack in Makhmour even though the town lies outside its jurisdiction

Saywan Barzani, who is a nephew to Kurdish President Massoud Barzani lists a number of factors that have maintained and shall maintain peace in Kurdistan; they are “the presence of stable political institutions that benefit from popular support; the existence of strong Kurdish security and intelligence forces; the non-interference by the multinational coalition in the affairs of Kurdistan; and finally Kurdistan’s peaceful foreign policy towards its neighbours and non-interference in the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq”.

The referendum that should decide the status of Kirkuk and might end with its incorporation into the Kurdish region “plays a role in foreign countries and terrorist and baa’thist organisations who are trying to destabilise the region and attack first of all the Kurdistan Democratic Party (like in Mosul) and our government (Arbil attack) to prevent them from implementing the constitution, which calls for a referendum [in Kirkuk] before the end of 2007.

“Under current circumstances,” he stressed, “it is impossible for Kurdistan to go the way of the rest of Iraq, except if multinational troops withdraw.”

Barzani did acknowledge however that “limited attacks might take place between now and December,” insisting though that “Kurdish leaders won’t surrender to threats. Taking back areas arabised under Saddam Hussein’s regime will remain top priority in Kurdistan’s political agenda.” (MA)

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