Kirkuk’s situation eases as curfew lifted day after deadly violence

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — A day of intense clashes and protests in Kirkuk resulted in four fatalities and over 15 injuries as demonstrators demanded the reopening of the crucial highway connecting Kirkuk to Erbil. However, signs of normalization are emerging, with authorities lifting the curfew and reopening the Kirkuk-Erbil road.

The city of Kirkuk witnessed escalating tensions on Saturday evening as Kurdish demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the closure of the Kirkuk-Erbil road by Arab demonstrators. The protests quickly turned violent, resulting in four deaths and leaving more than 15 individuals injured. Additionally, several vehicles were damaged and set ablaze during the confrontations.

Late into the night, Arab protesters decided to dismantle their tents and reopen the road in front of the Kirkuk Operations Command headquarters. This headquarters had been blocked for nearly a week in protest against a decision to transfer control of the facility to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Following stern warnings by the Kurdish leaders, acting Kirkuk Governor Rakan al-Jabouri engaged with the Arab demonstrators and conveyed that he had spoken with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, leading to the indefinite postponement of the handover of the headquarters to the KDP. The Arab protesters responded with applause, signaling their approval of the decision.

The Kirkuk Operations Command headquarters currently houses the General Command of Operations in Kirkuk, responsible for overseeing the province’s overall security. Before October 16, 2017, it served as the headquarters for the KDP leadership council.

According to the Sudani’s cabinet agenda, the headquarters, along with other key facilities, is slated to be handed over to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Arab and Turkmen parties have expressed concerns regarding the handover of the operations command headquarters to the KDP. They claim that violence against other ethnic groups has originated from this headquarters in Kirkuk in the past. However, KDP officials vehemently deny these allegations.

As Kirkuk gradually returns to a state of normalcy, authorities and community leaders are working to defuse the volatile situation and ensure the safety and security of all residents in the ethnically diverse city.

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