Kirkuk Police: ‘We are Overwhelmed by Armed Groups’

By RUDAW  – 25.8.2013 –  By Hiwa Husamaddin  – KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Security forces in the volatile Iraqi city of Kirkuk are overwhelmed by armed gangs, which brazenly carry out attacks and kidnappings without fear of police confrontation, an important provincial police chief said.

Brigadier General Sarhad Qadir, police chief of the towns and districts of Kirkuk, said that the armed gangs, belonging to radical groups, are better trained and more powerful than the city’s security forces, which are untrained for the types of hit-and-run tactics employed by the attackers.

The security situation in multi-religious and multiethnic Kirkuk has been plummeting, as in the rest of Iraq, save the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north, whose three provinces have remained a haven of calm and growing prosperity. Oil-rich Kirkuk province contains large tracts of so-called “disputed territories” that are claimed both by the Kurds in Erbil and the Arab central government in Baghdad.

“The armed groups can carry out attacks anytime and anywhere they choose because they are unhindered. These groups have grown so powerful that they can carry out attacks on the same location repeatedly,” said Qadir, who is one of the prominent security officials in Kirkuk. He said it was “their increasing intelligence capabilities” that made the armed groups powerful, against security forces inadequately trained or equipped to adapt to the new tactics.

“Big armies are not useful in combating suicide car bombs,” Qadir said. He said intelligence means having prior information, enabling “raids on bases before the car bombs can be planted.” Kirkuk’s 16 security units have been virtually helpless before the spiral of violence. The latest security measure by authorities is digging a security trench around Kirkuk to prevent terrorists and car bombs from entering the city. “They carry out attacks outside and inside the city, plant bombs, kidnap people and raid police headquarters, which is the strongest security apparatus in Kirkuk,” Qadir said. “They even threaten the governor and the police chief and free prisoners. They no longer hide, but strike in broad daylight,” he added.