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Arbil, Iraq (AFP) Nov 17, 2012
The president of Iraq's Kurdistan region has ordered its peshmerga security forces on high alert, a statement issued on Saturday said, attributing the move to clashes with central government forces.
An Iraqi general however said that the clashes in question came during an arrest attempt and did not involve the peshmerga.
Tensions between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq have been running high after the establishment of a new military command covering disputed territory, and over various other long-running disputes.
Kurdistan president Massud Barzani called "on the peshmerga forces to exercise restraint in the face of provocations, but also to be in a highest state of readiness to face any aggressive acts," the statement on his website said.
It said the alert followed clashes between central government forces and peshmerga in the disputed town of Tuz Khurmatu on Friday "in which one person died and several were wounded."
But the head of Baghdad's recently established Tigris Operations Command, Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi, told AFP that the incident did not involve the peshmerga and was rather an attempt to arrest a man accused of offences including murder and kidnapping.
The establishment of the command, based in Kirkuk city and covering all of the province of the same name as well as neighbouring Salaheddin and Diyala, has drawn an angry response from Kurdish leaders who want to incorporate much of the area into their autonomous region.
The dispute over the command strikes at the heart of an unresolved row between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Arbil over territory, oil and the interpretation of Iraq's federal constitution.
Car bomb against pilgrims kills three in Iraq
The bomb exploded about 1:30 pm (1030 GMT) at a restaurant where three buses carrying pilgrims were parked on a highway near Balad, north of Baghdad, a police officer said.
Jawad Abdul Kadhim, the head of the Balad hospital, said the attack killed an Iranian woman and two Iraqi men and wounded 25 people, including Pakistanis.
The pilgrims were on their way to visit the Al-Askari shrine in Samarra, which militants bombed in February 2006 sparking a wave of sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of people.
The attack comes during the Ashura religious commemorations marking the death of Imam Hussein, who was killed by armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
Tradition holds that the revered imam was decapitated and his body mutilated. Hussein's body is buried in Karbala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad. His death was a formative event in Shiite Islam.
Millions of people flood Karbala for the peak of the Ashura rituals, which occurs on November 25 this year.
Along with the security forces, the Shiite majority in Iraq has been a main target of Sunni Arab armed groups since the fall of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
Violence has declined dramatically since the 2006-2007 peak of sectarian bloodshed, but attacks remain common.
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century