Violence in Kirkuk has flared since
the US-led invasion

Most of the casualties were reported on Saturday but violence flared again on Sunday. It was not clear what triggered the fighting.

Local police officials said the situation had calmed down amid heightened security. US forces were participating with local authorities in joint patrols.

Looting and violence among the city’s ethnic patchwork of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians were first reported after troops loyal to deposed leader Saddam Hussein fled the city.

Tension between Arabs and Kurds over Kirkuk was a major concern even before the US-led invasion of Iraq in March. Observers had warned clashes could erupt after Kurds vowed to fight for sovereignty of the city.

Kirkuk was once a mainly Kurdish city until Saddam Hussein’s “Arabisation”  campaign seized Kurdish property and settled Arabs in the city. Many Kurds are now demanding the right of return to their former homes and land.

Kirkuk will elect a 30-member city council later this week.

PKK ready to work with US

Meanwhile, Turkish-Kurdish groups said they were ready to work with the United States but said they would not disarm, reported a news agency close to the group.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Osman Ocalan said his troops would not fight US-backed Kurds in northern Iraq, the Europe-based Mezopotomya news agency reported. Ocalan added that he had received no US orders to disarm.

It was unclear how Washington would respond to the group which it considers a “terrorist” organisation. The PKK fought for an ethnic homeland in south-eastern Turkey throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Ocalan said the PKK would only disarm if Ankara offered amnesty for its fighters and released its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence.

About 5,000 PKK fighters are in northern Iraq. Washington believes they could complicate US plans for the country.