KIRKUK, Iraq: At least one civilian was killed and eight other people were injured Saturday during rival protests in the multi-ethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a local official said, amid days of brewing tensions.
The identity and the circumstances surrounding the death were not immediately clear, the director of the local health authority Ziad Khalaf told AFP, adding that those injured had been hit by bullets, stones or glass.
He said a member of the security forces was among the injured.
Kirkuk police spokesperson Amer Shuani told regional broadcaster Kurdistan 24 that the toll was “one dead and five injured.”
A curfew was instated in the evening after rival protests — between Kurdish residents on one side and Turkmen and Arabs on the other — descended into violence.
Earlier in the day, police had been deployed to act as a buffer and keep apart the rival groups.
Warning shots were fired to force Kurdish demonstrators to disperse. An AFP correspondent said vehicles on a main avenue were set on fire.
Tensions have been brewing for nearly a week in Kirkuk, which has historically been disputed between the federal government in Baghdad and the authorities in the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north.
Arab and Turkmen demonstrators staged a sit-in near the headquarters of the Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk province on Monday, after reports that Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani had ordered them to hand over the site to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which used to occupy it.
Kurdish protesters tried to reach the headquarters on Saturday, an AFP correspondent said.
After the violence, Sudani ordered a curfew in Kirkuk and “extensive security operations in the areas affected by the riots,” a statement from his office said.
He called on all parties to “play their part in preventing strife and preserving security, stability, and order in Kirkuk Governorate.”
Sudani, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, ordered security forces in the province “to fulfil their responsibilities in maintaining security and upholding the rule of law.”
In 2014, the KDP and the peshmerga, the security forces of the Kurdistan region, took control of Kirkuk, an oil-producing region of northern Iraq.
However, federal troops expelled them in autumn 2017 following an abortive referendum on Kurdish independence.
Despite a history of rocky relations and tensions, Sudani’s government has generally managed to maintain cordial relations between Baghdad and Irbil, the Kurdish capital.