Arab and Kurdish leaders trade barbs over Iraq unrest

MOSUL, Mujahid Mohammed - Arab and Kurdish politicians in northern Iraq traded accusations of responsibility on Sunday over a series of bloody bombings that have rocked the region in recent days.
In the latest bombing, a politician from the tiny Kurdish-speaking Shabak community and two aides were wounded in Iraq's second city of Mosul, less than a week after two truck bombs killed dozens of Shabak members, police said.

Arab and Kurdish leaders trade barbs over Iraq unrest
Sunday's attack against Qussai Abbas, the only Shabak member of Nineveh provincial council, came amid a war of words between Kurdish politicians and the Sunni Arabs who lead the council, while the top US commander in Iraq met with senior Arab and Kurdish politicians in a bid to promote talks.
Initially, Arab politicians accused Kurds of launching the attacks to push the local population to demand the deployment of Kurdish peshmerga militiamen across the province.
The accusation drew a sharp rebuke from Kurdish authorities.
"We are sorry to see that some of the leaders of the (Sunni Arab) Al-Hadba list stand against the principles of democracy and peaceful coexistence by accusing the Kurdistan region of taking part in the latest attacks in Nineveh," a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government said.
At least 34 people were killed and 155 wounded on August 10 when two massive truck bombs exploded, levelling dozens of homes, in the Shabak-majority village of Khaznah near Mosul.
That attack was one of a string across the country which killed 51 people in one of the bloodiest days since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi towns and cities on June 30.
"The reality is that in Nineveh province, the terrorist campaign of bombings and assassinations was targeting Kurdish Yazidis, Kurdish Shabaks, Turkmen and Christians... not to mention the displacement of hundreds of Christian and Kurdish families," the Kurdish spokesman said.
"Some of the members of the Al-Hadba list bear responsibility for these crimes, especially the two brothers (of the governor)."
Nineveh Governor Athel al-Nujaifi hit back, describing the Kurdish remarks as "hasty" and stemming from frustration at the loss of control of Nineveh council to the Sunni Arab list in the last provincial elections in January.
"The Kurds did not like the entire election process, so they made hasty statements and threats," he told AFP. "It is our right to talk about the security situation."
Nujaifi called on Kurdish leaders to accept that none of Nineveh province would be joined with the three far-northern provinces that currently form the autonomous Kurdish region.
Kurdish leaders have long demanded that the region be expanded to include historically Kurdish-inhabited parts of Nineveh and Diyala provinces as well as the whole of Kirkuk province.
Kurdish peshmerga continue to patrol some districts of Nineveh which they occupied during the US-led invasion of 2003, but Nujaifi demanded that the Iraqi army deploy across the whole province.
US General Ray Odierno, meanwhile, met with the Iraqi interior and defence ministers and the Kurdish region's interior minister on Sunday, with the aim of spurring dialogue between the two sides.
"Today's meeting represents an important first step in working through the security issues in the disputed areas," he said in a statement.
Despite a reduction in violence in recent months, attacks against security forces and civilians remain common in Mosul as well as in Kirkuk and Baghdad.
On Sunday, four people were killed and 18 wounded when a restaurant in the capital's eastern neighbourhood of Baghdad Jadidah was bombed.
The number of violent deaths fell by a third last month to 275 from 437 in June, following the pullout of US forces from urban areas. The figure for May was 155, the lowest of any month since the invasion.
The Shabak community numbers an estimated 30,000 people living in some 50 villages in Nineveh province, and many want to become part of the autonomous Kurdish region.
They speak a distinct variety of the Kurdish language, and unlike most Kurds, who are Sunnis, they follow Shiite Islam.

Monday, August 17th 2009
Mujahid Mohammed

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