A source in the Iraqi province of Kirkuk reported on Thursday that the Security Intelligence Director of Kirkuk Aydan Hussein Rifat and his guard were killed in an armed attack carried out by unknown militants in the centre of Kirkuk, which is located 250 km north of Baghdad.
Rifat, an Iraqi Turkmen, and his guard were passing the busiest street of Kirkuk, Baghdad Way, by car when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle.
“Unidentified gunmen opened fire at noon today against the vehicle of the Security Intelligence Director of Kirkuk Aydan Hussein Rifat, while passying in the commercial street in the center of Kirkuk, resulting in his death on the spot,” the source told a national news agency.
The source, who requested anonymity, added, “The security forces rushed to the scene and transported the victim to the forensic medicine department and opened an investigation to know who stands behind [the attack].”
No group or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The assasination was allegedly carried out in an attempt to incite ethnic violence in the city.
Four people, including one Turkmen, were also killed in an armed attack by gunmen in the Tuz Khurmatu county of Saladin province in Iraq in the last 24 hours.
Iraq's Kirkuk Province has long witnessed ethnic tensions. The region holds the potential to make or break national peacemaking efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.
At least 12 people were killed on July 25 when two suicide bombers attacked a crowded swimming pool in Tuz Khurmatu, northern Iraq, a local official and police sources said, whike forty five others were wounded in the attack. Most of the victims were Shiites from the Turkmen minority.
In 2003, tensions between Turkmens and Kurds in the area broke out in deadly violence. The protests spreaded from Tuz Khurmatu to Kirkuk, leaving eight people dead in Tuz Khurmatu on August 22 and another three in Kirkuk the following day.
The main reason for the tensions were disputes over political control of Tuz Khurmatu, according to a local Turkmen leader.
More violence erupted in Kirkuk on December 31, when several thousand Arabs and Turkmens protested outside the PUK office in the city, shouting “No to federalism, Kirkuk is Iraqi.” Clashes broke out, killing five people and wounding twenty others. Both Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Turkmen officials accused each other of igniting the violence.
The demonstration was apparently carried out in response to an earlier one which took place on December 22, when thousands of Kurds marched through Kirkuk shouting pro-federalism slogans.
Eruption of violence in the city also continued in 2004, involving individual killings and attacks on political party offices and police stations.