Curfew imposed on Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk after violent clashes

Three dead and over a dozen wounded and police sent to keep rival protest groups apart

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 in the city of Kirkuk, as authorities imposed a curfew after days of tensions.  (Photo by AFP)
Powered by automated translation

Three civilians died and more than a dozen people were wounded on Saturday when clashes erupted during protests in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a local official said.

Two people were shot in the chest and a third in the head, Ziad Khalaf, director of the local health authority, told AFP.

Those wounded, including Kurds, Arabs and three members of the security forces, had been hit by bullets, stones or glass said Khalaf.

A decision to hand over a building used by the Joint Operations Command forces in Iraq to the Kurdistan Democratic Party was postponed and demonstrations ended, said Kirkuk Governor Rakan Saeed Al Jabouri on Sunday.

The protests centred on the planned handover of the facility from federal to local Kurdish authorities.

A curfew was imposed and police were sent to keep rival protest groups apart – Kurdish residents on one side and Turkmen and Arabs on the other.

Arab and Turkmen demonstrators staged a sit-in near the headquarters of the Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk province last Monday. Late on Saturday, they were continuing their sit-in.

In another part of the city, a police chief was trying to calm Kurdish protesters.

Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani ordered the curfew because of the "extensive security operations in the areas affected by the riots", his office said.

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

Mr Al Sudani ordered security forces in the province "to fulfil their responsibilities in maintaining security and upholding the rule of law". He also called for a commission of inquiry into the incident.

Tensions have been brewing for nearly a week in Kirkuk.

Last week, a group of Arabs from Kirkuk closed the Kirkuk-to-Erbil motorway in a protest. On Saturday, Kurdish residents demanded the reopening of the motorway.

Masoud Barzani, a Kurdish political leader, criticised the violence he said was directed against Kurdish protesters.

“It’s surprising that in the past few days security forces in Kirkuk did not prevent the violence and illegal behaviour of some groups, but today the Kurdish protesters were faced with violence and (the) blood of Kurdish youth was spilled, and it will carry a heavy price,” a statement said.

Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid called for “constructive dialogue”.

“Kirkuk was and still is a symbol of Iraqi brotherhood and a gathering of all sects, and we will not allow its image to be distorted," he said.

Updated: September 03, 2023, 5:37 AM