War on Terrorism

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kirkuk Police Seek to Ease Ethnic Tension

By Army Pfc. Justin Naylor
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 13, 2009 - Provincial police representatives in Iraq's Kirkuk province met May 4 with Christian leaders in Kirkuk city to address concerns about increased violence against Kirkuk's Christian minority. Only about 3 percent of Iraq's total population -- about 800,000 Iraqis -- are Christian.

"Anyone that targets you, targets us also," said Maj. Gen. Turhan, the Kirkuk city deputy police chief, a Kurdish Muslim.

Two attacks April 26 left three Christian residents of Kirkuk dead and two others injured, the third series of attacks targeting Christians in the city in recent months.

"Our history has always coincided with yours," Turhan said at the meeting.

Following the attack, Iraqi police began visiting Christians in their homes to reassure them of police presence and to create lines of communication that the Christians could use in case of emergencies.

Unlike in the aftermath of attacks in the past, Christians did not flee the city this time, Turhan said. For some, he added, the attacks only redoubled their determination to stay in Kirkuk and prove that they will not be frightened away.

"We feel safe here, and we are planning on staying," one Christian told Turhan.

A Christian representative at the meeting commended the police's efforts to protect them. "We have received great support from the [police], and they responded to the attacks well," he said.

Christian neighborhoods and churches are receiving special attention and extra security to prevent further bloodshed, police officials said.

Following the attacks, police operations surged and three suspects believed to be involved in the murders were arrested.

(Army Pfc. Justin Naylor serves with the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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