Police deployed in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk to prevent any outbreak of ethnic violence ahead of an independence referendum strongly opposed by the central Baghdad government and Western and regional powers.
The Kurdish region plans to hold the Sept. 25 vote despite an Iraqi government warning it is “playing with fire” and U.S. declarations it could undermine the fight against Islamic State militants. The referendum could raise particular tension in Kirkuk, where Kurds vie with Turkmen and Arabs for power.
Turkey, which has moved a detachment of tanks and troops to its border with northern Iraq, said the breakup of Iraq or Syria where Kurds have gained territory and influence in the war against Islamic State could stir global conflict.
Kurdish security and the city police erected checkpoints across Kirkuk after a Kurd was killed in a clash with the guards of a Turkmen political party office in the city.
Two other Kurds and a Turkmen security guard were wounded in the clash that broke out when a Kurdish convoy celebrating the referendum, carrying Kurdish flags, drove by the Turkmen party office, according to security sources. The Kurdish dead and wounded were among those celebrating, they said.
Turkey has long seen itself as the protector of Iraq’s Turkmen minority.
Turkey’s defense minister warned on Tuesday that the breakup of Iraq or Syria could have dire consequences.
”A change that will mean the violation of Iraq’s territorial
integrity poses a major risk for Turkey,” Nurettin Canikli said in Ankara.