KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - A tribal dispute between Arabs and Turkmen over land near Iraq’s oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk led to clashes that killed three people and wounded another eight Friday, police and provincial officials said.
The incident began with a demonstration by Turkmen tribes against Arabs who were building houses in the village of Basheer, 15 km ( miles) southwest of Kirkuk, local police said.
Longstanding differences between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen over land and oil in Kirkuk and Iraq’s other disputed northern territories are considered a potential flashpoint for future conflict in Iraq.
Authorities said the Turkmen were concerned the construction would deepen the Arab presence in an area they see as their own.
“Three people were killed due to a tribal dispute between Turkmen and Arab tribes in Basheer,” said Serhat Qader, a police official based in Kirkuk.
Provincial officials said three Arabs were killed in the clash, while the eight wounded were from both sides.
Direct clashes between Turkmen and Arabs in the disputed areas have been rare.
Najat Hussein, a Turkmen member of Tamim provincial council, said the Turkmen were demonstrating “peacefully” against the recent construction, which he said violated a five-year-old agreement between Arabs and Turkmen in the area.
“A part of the deal is that only agriculture (not construction) is permitted,” he said.
Mohammed Khalil, an Arab member of the council, said: “It was not a peaceful demonstration.”
Kirkuk, about 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, sits atop some of the world’s richest oilfields. Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region claims Kirkuk for its own.
Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; Writing by Waleed Ibrahim; Editing by Jim Loney and Jon Hemming