Students inspect a damaged house after a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250km north of Baghdad.Photo by Reuters
Bombers have killed 12 people in northern Iraqi towns and
villages in the second consecutive day of attacks in areas at
the centre of a bitter feud between Baghdad and autonomous
The ethnically mixed, disputed territories - the swathe of
land marking Iraq from the area administered by Kurds in the
north - have been a potential flashpoint for conflict since
the buffer of the last American troops left a year ago.
Two blasts hit a Shi'ite district in Tuz Khurmato, killing at
least five and wounding 24 and a truck bomb killed seven in a
Shabak minority area near Mosul, 390km north of the capital,
security and local officials said.
"The bombers are trying to stir tensions, but we are telling
them we will be more unified by these attacks," Tuz Khurmato
Mayor Shalal Abdul told Reuters. "Those who were killed here
include three children and an elderly man."
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the
explosions came at a time of heightened tensions between the
Arab-led central government in Baghdad and ethnic Kurds over
contested land and oil rights.
One person was killed and five were wounded in four blasts
around the religiously mixed city of Baquba in Diyala
province, where some areas neighbouring Kurdistan are
disputed, police said.
Last month, Baghdad and Kurdistan sent troops and tanks from
their respective armies to reinforce positions around towns
in the contested territories, escalating tensions in their
long-running dispute, especially over Kirkuk.
Neither Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki nor Kurdistan
President Masoud Barzani stand to benefit from letting the
stand-off slide into conflict, but they may try to use troop
movements to shore up support with their constituents,
diplomats and analysts say.
Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have faced off in
the past only to step back before any major confrontation.
U.S. officials helped ease tensions earlier this year when
the two armies faced off near the Syrian border.
Another 11 people were killed in attacks in the ethnically
mixed city of Kirkuk on Sunday, authorities said.
Kirkuk sits outside the three northern provinces administered
by Kurdistan, but ethnic Kurds lay historical claim to the
city and say it should be part of the Kurdish region. The
city's Turkmen minority also claim historical rights there.
A referendum to decide if Kurds are the dominant ethnicity,
which would strengthen their claim to Kirkuk and its oil
riches, has been repeatedly delayed.
Kurds say Iraq's former Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein
"Arabised" Kirkuk by moving Arabs there in the 1980s and
Kurdistan has run its own government and armed forces since
1991 and is more secure and stable than other parts of Iraq,
but it still relies on the central government for a
17-percent share of the national budget and for pipelines to
export its oil.
But the Kurdish region increasingly has clashed with Baghdad
after signing oil agreements with companies like Exxon Mobil
and Chevron to develop its own oilfields, deals the central
government dismisses as unconstitutional.