Gunmen Kill 10 Iraq Security Forces Members and Kurdish Peshmerga Deploys near Kirkuk

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  • W460
  • W460

Gunmen killed five army intelligence soldiers in two attacks west of Baghdad while others shot dead five anti-Qaida militiamen north of the Iraqi capital on Saturday, police and doctors said.

One group of soldiers were driving near the site of a long-running anti-government protest when they were stopped by gunmen. They shot one of the gunmen, wounding him, and clashes broke out in which four of the soldiers were killed and another wounded, a police lieutenant colonel and a doctor said.

Gunmen also killed one soldier and wounded another in a similar incident involving a second vehicle in the same area, the same sources said.

And gunmen killed five Sahwa anti-Qaida militiamen in an attack, on a checkpoint south of Tikrit, which lies north of the Iraqi capital, a second police lieutenant colonel and a doctor said.

The incidents come amid a wave of violence that began on Tuesday when security forces moved in against anti-government protesters near the Sunni Arab northern town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that left 53 people dead.

Subsequent unrest, much but not all of it apparently linked to the Hawijah clashes, killed dozens more people and brought the death toll to over 200 by Saturday.

Meanwhile, Kurdish security forces deployed near the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish official said on Saturday, a move allegedly aimed at combating militants in the area.

"After consultations with the governor of Kirkuk, there has been a decision for peshmerga (security) forces to fill the vacuums in general, and especially around the city of Kirkuk," Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of Iraqi Kurdistan's peshmerga ministry, said in a statement.

"The intelligence service of the peshmerga has information that terrorist groups have plans to launch terrorist attacks in these regions," Yawar said. "Our only goal is to preserve the life of citizens."

But the Iraqi army ascribed different motives to the deployment.

"After the latest movements of the peshmerga forces, the army is on alert," a high-ranking army officer told Agence France Presse. "The army sees the move of the peshmerga as a (political) manoeuvre and not to fill any vacuum."

A top Iraqi general commented on the Kurdish deployment, calling it a "dangerous development" and an attempt to reach Kirkuk's oilfields.

"They want to reach (Kirkuk's) oil wells and fields," Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed, the commander of Iraqi ground forces, told AFP, adding that the move breached an agreement that Kurdish peshmerga forces and Iraqi soldiers would man joint checkpoints.

Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of Iraqi Kurdistan's peshmerga ministry, had said in a statement earlier on Saturday that the peshmerga were making new deployments in Kirkuk solely in the interest of protecting civilians.

"After consultations with the governor of Kirkuk, there has been a decision for peshmerga (security) forces to fill the vacuums in general, and especially around the city of Kirkuk," he said.

"The intelligence service of the peshmerga has information that terrorist groups have plans to launch terrorist attacks in these regions," Yawar said.

"Our only goal is to preserve the life of citizens."

Another high-ranking Iraqi army officer told AFP that "after the latest movements of the peshmerga forces, the army is on alert."

"The army sees the move of the peshmerga as a (political) manoeuvre and not to fill any vacuum," the officer said.

Kirkuk province and its eponymous capital, home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, fall within the territory the autonomous Kurdistan region wants to incorporate over strong objections from the federal government in Baghdad.

Diplomats and officials say the territorial dispute between Baghdad and Kurdistan -- a three-province region with its own government, security forces, borders and flag but which still receives a portion of the federal budget -- is a major threat to Iraq's long-term stability.

In addition to territory, the two sides are at odds over other issues including oil deals Kurdistan has made without Baghdad's approval, and power-sharing.

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