* Disputed areas at heart of Baghdad, Kurdish feud
* Bombings a second day of violence in territories
* Baghdad and Kurdish contesting oil and land rights
KIRKUK, Iraq, Dec 17 Bombers and gunmen killed
at least 26 people in attacks mostly in northern Iraqi towns and
villages on Monday in the second consecutive day of violence in
areas at the centre of a bitter feud between Baghdad and
The ethnically mixed "Disputed Territories" - the swathe of
land marking Iraq from the area administered by Kurds in the
north - have been a potential flashpoint for conflict since the
buffer of the last American troops left a year ago.
Two blasts hit a Shi'ite district in Tuz Khurmato, killing
at least five and wounding 24 and a truck bomb killed seven in a
Shabak minority area near Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of the
capital, security and local officials said.
"The bombers are trying to stir tensions, but we are telling
them we will be more unified by these attacks," Tuz Khurmato
Mayor Shalal Abdul told Reuters. "Those who were killed here
include three children and an elderly man."
No armed group claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks,
but the explosions came at a time of heightened tensions between
the Arab-led central government in Baghdad and ethnic Kurds over
contested land and oil rights.
One person was killed and five were wounded in four blasts
around the religiously mixed city of Baquba in Diyala province,
where areas neighbouring Kurdistan are disputed, police said.
A string of attacks, mortar rounds and bombs killed more
than a dozen more in other areas in Iraq.
Last month, Baghdad and Kurdistan sent troops and tanks from
their respective armies to reinforce positions around towns in
the contested territories, escalating tensions in their
long-running dispute, especially over Kirkuk.
Neither Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki nor Kurdistan
President Masoud Barzani stand to benefit from letting the
standoff slide into conflict, but they may try to use troop
movements to shore up support with their constituents, diplomats
and analysts say.
Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have faced off in
the past only to step back before any major confrontation. U.S.
officials helped ease tensions earlier this year when the two
armies faced off near the Syrian border.
Another 11 people were killed in attacks in the ethnically
mixed city of Kirkuk on Sunday, authorities said.
Kirkuk sits outside the three northern provinces
administered by Kurdistan, but ethnic Kurds lay historical claim
to the city and say it should be part of the Kurdish region. The
city's Turkmen minority also claim historical rights there.
A referendum to decide if Kurds are the dominant ethnicity,
which would strengthen their claim to Kirkuk and its oil riches,
has been repeatedly delayed.
Kurds say Iraq's former Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein
"Arabised" Kirkuk by moving Arabs there in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kurdistan has run its own government and armed forces since
1991 and is more secure and stable than other parts of Iraq, but
it still relies on the central government for a 17 percent share
of the national budget and for pipelines to export its oil.
But the Kurdish region increasingly has clashed with Baghdad
after signing oil agreements with companies like Exxon Mobil and
Chevron to develop its own oilfields, deals the central
government dismisses as unconstitutional.