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1) Kurd-Arab clashes imperil Iraq cease-fire 2) Americans Try to Quell Arab-Kurd Flare-Up ----------------------- http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/140/nation/Kurd_Arab_clashes_imperil_Iraq_ cease_fire+.shtml Kurd-Arab clashes imperil Iraq cease-fire By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff, 5/20/2003 IRKUK, Iraq -- A wave of village burnings, forcible evictions, and armed clashes between Kurdish forces and Arab fighters is sweeping through north-central Iraq in an outbreak of ethnic strife that threatens the tenuous cease-fire imposed by the US-led coalition. The clashes have centered on the pivotal oil-rich city of Kirkuk and could have great influence on who wields political and economic power in Iraq. Following fresh evictions and the burning of two Arab farm villages, Arab irregulars attacked the regional government building in Kirkuk on Saturday, and they fought with Kurdish forces on the streets of the city with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on Sunday. Officials say at least 10 people were killed in the violence last weekend. Several freshly charred villages -- Albu Saraj, Jamboor, Al Behar, and others -- were observed by reporters on both sides of the main highway through the Kirkuk area. Residents of larger towns said efforts to eject Arab residents forcibly are occurring daily. Major Robert Gowan, a spokesman for the US military in Kirkuk, said, ''We are trying not to allow any forcible evictions. We are trying to stop people from being killed. ''We want to freeze the situation in place and have property disputes settled by some kind of court,'' he said. ''But this is a very tough, emotional issue.'' Hoshyar Zebari, director of international relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the dominant political force in the conflict area, said American intervention is ''a point of tension between us and the coalition forces.'' ''Unfortunately, they do not comprehend the sensitivity of this process of Arabization'' that was pushed with steadily increasing force during nearly 40 years of Ba'ath Party rule in Iraq, he said. ''It was ethnic cleansing, really.'' Zebari said the Arab settlers who were pushed out immediately after the recent war ''are being brought back with the mighty power of the United States.'' ''This is going to be a flashpoint issue. It is very tense,'' Zebari said. Arabization of Kurdish areas began with the Ba'ath Party's rise to power in 1963, according to Rezgar Ali, a member of the Kirkuk City Council and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK. The new rulers of Iraq formed their army primarily from Arab tribes and clans, looted and burned Kurdish villages, and killed many young Kurdish men. ''I was one year and six months old. We fled to the mountains with nothing but the clothes on our backs,'' Ali said. The policy became official soon after Saddam Hussein took control in 1979. Poor families in Baghdad and other central cities were offered 10,000 Iraqi dinars -- a huge sum in those days -- and guarantees of housing and employment if they moved north. Arabization intensified in the aftermath of the Anfal campaign, when Ba'ath forces killed more than 100,000 Kurds, systematically slaughtering men and boys near fighting age and killing women and young children as well. The campaign intensified again following the Kurdish rebellion after the 1991 Gulf War. Knowledge of this history, Ali said, is necessary to understand the current atmosphere, in which ''some of the Kurds . . . burned [Arab] villages as revenge for the history of injustice and so the Arabs could not come back to these villages.'' Although many of the burned sites have been marked with PUK letters, it ''does not mean an official came and wrote it,'' Ali said. He insisted that Arabs who settled in Kurdish areas ''go back where they originally came from . . . we don't want revenge on the settlers.'' The ethnic clashes are occurring only days before 300 community leaders are scheduled to elect a 30-member city council that will appoint a mayor, a crucial step in the attempts by the US-led coalition to foster democracy in Iraq. Amid the smoldering ruins of Albu Saraj, an Arab village that until 2 1/2 weeks ago was home to an estimated 750 people, Naji Mizeyal told how his clan moved north 35 years ago, when he was 11. ''The whole clan came at once, about 20 families,'' Mizeyal said. ''We had nothing. We lived in tents and built this village.'' The clan became prosperous, growing wheat, barley, corn, and sesame. Around May 1, Mizeyal said, Kurds from a nearby village blockaded their only road and confiscated cars. They began shooting at the Arabs at night. After two women and four children were killed, he said, the village was evacuated. The Kurds, accompanied by peshmerga fighters, began coming at night to burn houses. A delegation from Albu Saraj that tried to open talks was fired upon several days later, and two members of the group were killed, he said. Then a message was sent to the Arabs that no one would bother them if they returned. A group of more than 30 men went -- and was fired upon. The Albu Saraj residents notified American troops in the area, who, Mizeyal says, ''wrote a report and told the neighboring village they should not shoot at us anymore. They did not obey.'' The former Albu Saraj residents are now dispersed in the area, their youngest children sheltering in Arab villages that Mizeyal said ''are well protected,'' while the adults and the older children live ''in tents . . . in the wilderness. There is no water, no electricity. There is no food.'' Ahmad Jalil, 23, has not been chased out of Tawuq, a major town south of Kirkuk, but it is likely he will be soon. His is the last of 50 houses in Tawuq still occupied by families who moved in during the Arabization. ''People have been threatening me and painting PUK on my house . . . shooting in the air, for a week now,'' Jalil said. ''They've gone through the whole neighborhood. The latest family to go took off this morning. ''Where will we go?'' the young mason said anxiously. ''I came here when I was seven years old. I didn't know there was such a thing as Arabization policy. ''This is my only home. My father died here. All my brothers were born here. I am taking care of six orphans. Where will we go?'' Qassem Abdullah, also 23, stood close by. He and Jalil grew up together in Tawuq. They went to the same school and played football. Sometimes they work together. But that doesn't affect Abdullah's feelings about Arabization. His friend has to go. ''The people who are coming back from Kurdistan need their houses back,'' Abdullah said. ''The people who came through Arabization should leave. It is not personal. We will still be friends.'' Charles A. Radin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 5/20/2003. © Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company. ----------------- http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/20/international/worldspecial/20NORT.html?ex= 1054008000&en=9ef0c0e97a38162a&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE NORTHERN IRAQ Americans Try to Quell Arab-Kurd Flare-Up By SABRINA TAVERNISE EEHA, Iraq, May 19 - American troops trying to quell ethnic clashes in northern Iraq came under fire on Sunday night, as tensions between Arabs and Kurds continued to simmer, increasing the dangers faced by troops charged with keeping the peace. One soldier was injured in the firefight, which followed clashes in Kirkuk on Saturday that left at least nine people dead. On Sunday in Erbil, in a move that could deepen hostility between the groups, the Kurdish regional parliament passed a toughly worded law that would "cancel the history of Arabization in Kurdistan." Under the law, non-Kurds who came to three northern cities during Saddam Hussein's campaign to populate the north with Arabs, would be forced to leave. The law gives no specifics on how it would be carried out. The American soldiers who were attacked Sunday were on their way to Hawija, about 20 miles from Kirkuk, thought to be the hometown of many of the Arab men involved in the clashes on Saturday. Capt. Joel Fischer of the First Infantry Division said that Arabs who took part in the clashes in Kirkuk were armed and that interviews with men stopped at vehicle checkpoints over the weekend revealed that many of them had come from Hawija. But the trip to search and secure the town proved more difficult than the soldiers had expected. On the road into Hawija, about 9 p.m., troops from the First Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade stopped for a break at this village. Suddenly, armed men appeared in a barley field along the dark country road. "All of a sudden, the town erupted in gunfire," said Lt. Ryan Williams, a member of the approximately 35-man task force. Seeha is about eight miles from Hawija. The fighting continued for about an hour, with the American soldiers taking heavy fire during the first 30 minutes. Even after reinforcement tanks rolled in, the men from the village kept up their fire for 30 minutes more, Captain Fischer said. One American soldier was shot twice, but he was not critically wounded. A bullet lodged in his protective vest, and another in his body. He was evacuated in a medical helicopter. Even after two Apache helicopters flew in to give support from the air, the convoy could not move forward. It was not until after 11 p.m. that troops were finally able to continue toward Hawija. "They were good shots," Captain Fischer said in an interview in Kirkuk after the troops returned from the operation. "There was a high volume of fire, and it was fairly accurate. It was coordinated. I heard reports of tracer rounds being fired as we moved forward." The fight highlighted the difficulties American troops face as they try to pick their way through ethnic disputes. They must strike a balance between Arabs and Kurds, sometimes without knowing whom they are fighting. This weekend, for example, fliers were distributed by an unknown group in an Arab area, warning residents to leave or be forced out. "You just need to be out there and see what's going on," Captain Fischer said. "Then you determine where to be out in force. If you go out in force all the time, it loses its effect." The exhausted battalion finally reached Hawija in the early morning hours today. They set up several checkpoints on the main roads in and out of the town and began checking each passing car for weapons. By midmorning today a serpentine line of cars waiting to be searched snaked along one of the main roads into the village. "The word is out that Americans have come to check for weapons," said Sgt. Mark Douglas of the First Infantry Division. "There's a lot of money coming through this town." As the morning wore on, many questions remained about the night's firefight. Villagers, mainly Arab farmers, were out inspecting the damage. No one was hurt, they said, but they lost property. By their count, American artillery killed five cows, six or seven sheep and a donkey, tore holes in six houses and destroyed two tractors. In all, about 60 families live in Seeha. The farmers admitted that they had fired on the soldiers but said they had not known they were shooting at Americans because of the darkness. Tense after the weekend violence in Kirkuk, they said they mistook the troops for invading Kurds. About 15 people fired for 30 minutes, said Akhmed Saleh, one of the farmers who took part in the gunfight. "It was the Americans' mistake," said Mr. Saleh, standing near a gaping hole in his neighbor's house caused by American tank fire. "We didn't know they were Americans." The farmers said they were armed with only simple rifles and had stopped firing and fled as soon as they realized whom they were fighting. They said they had no other guns. The Americans, however, were skeptical. By morning, they had confiscated 15 or 16 automatic weapons, including AK-47 guns and two Belgian-made guns, Captain Fischer said. "The weapons we found were not typical of farmers," the captain said. "One of the guns they had I couldn't afford. The movement tactics we saw were not from farmers." Kirkuk today was quiet. Local representatives from the Arab and Kurdish communities were talking to people in neighborhoods, urging calm. A joint meeting in a mosque on Sunday night seemed to reach a truce, though shooting continued in the Qadesiyah neighborhood. A Turkmen representative was shot in the hand while he was leaving a meeting on Sunday. Everyone in the north has a gun. After the fall of Kirkuk, American forces found more than a division's worth of weapons and ammunition in strategic points around the city. "There were houses filled floor to ceiling and wall to wall with tank ammo and artillery rounds," Captain Fischer said. "They were quickly emptied out." It was unclear when more clashes would occur, but Captain Fischer said he was sure that at some point they would. "It will flare up again," he said. Easing the problem "will require patience on everyone's part, including ours. You have to define what the problem actually is and talk through it." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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