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rodeodance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-15-07 12:13 AM
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U.S. scrambles to keep Kirkuk from igniting
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U.S. scrambles to keep Kirkuk from igniting
Updated 46m ago

By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
KIRKUK, Iraq When a bomb goes off here, Lt. Col. Michael Browder's job is to make it seem like the attack never happened.

Minutes after a truck exploded near a police station last month, Browder and his unit immediately went to work removing the bodies of the 13 victims, among them a U.S. soldier. By nightfall, wrecked buildings were bulldozed, charred cars towed away, and water and power restored.

By making an extraordinary effort to repair damage after such explosions, the U.S. military hopes to soothe public anger and keep Kirkuk from becoming Iraq's next big flash point for violence. Otherwise, Browder says, revenge killings could quickly overwhelm a city that has been called "Iraq's Jerusalem" because of its patchwork of rival sects, competing claims over who should control it, and its importance to the nation's future.

Tensions already are so high in Kirkuk that Browder says just one bomb with mass casualties might be enough to unleash a massive bloodletting. "Everybody's right on the envelope," he says.

Such a scenario would significantly worsen problems throughout Iraq and beyond. The Kurds, the largest ethnic group in Kirkuk, could clash with already-warring Sunni and Shiite Arabs, essentially turning Iraq's sectarian conflict into a three-way affair. Neighboring Turkey could invade to protect its ethnic kin. Turmoil in a region that accounts for about 40% of Iraq's oil production could damage the economy for years to come.

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