At­tack­ers kill 33 at po­lice HQ in Kirkuk

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL -

At least 33 peo­ple were killed in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sun­day when a sui­cide bomber det­o­nated a truck packed with ex­plo­sives out­side a po­lice head­quar­ters and gun­men dis­guised as of­fi­cers tried to storm the com­pound.

The blast was the third ma­jor at­tack in weeks in or near the mul­ti­eth­nic city of Arabs, Kurds and Turk­men, at the heart of a dis­pute be­tween Iraq's cen­tral government and the au­tonomous Kur­dis­tan re­gion.

Po­lice said the bomber trig­gered the huge blast near a side en­trance to the po­lice build­ing, de­mol­ish­ing part of a government of­fice nearby.

"A sui­cide bomber driv­ing a ve­hi­cle packed with ex­plo­sives hit the en­trance of the head­quar­ters and af­ter the blast gun­men in ex­plo­sive vests at­tacked with AK47s and grenades, but the guards killed them," a po­lice of­fi­cial said.

Guards and emer­gency work­ers dragged bloodied sur­vivors onto stretch­ers amid the wreck­age of the blast, which left a large crater in the street.

Po­lice said 33 were killed, in­clud­ing 12 em­ploy­ees at the government of­fice. But a health of­fi­cial said only 16 bod­ies were at a hospi­tal morgue and more than 90 were wounded.

The at­tack comes as in­sur­gents linked to al Qaeda try to in­flame sec­tar­ian con­flict in Iraq, where a power-shar­ing government split among Shi'ite ma­jor­ity, Sunni and eth­nic Kurds has been in cri­sis since the last U.S. troops left a year ago.

"Two-front" Cri­sis

Shi'ite Prime Min­is­ter Nuri al-Ma­liki is fac­ing mass protests from Sunni Mus­lims in west­ern prov­inces call­ing for him to step down, com­plain­ing of marginal­iza­tion since the fall of Sad­dam Hus­sein.

In the north, the pre­mier is also caught in a tense stand­off with the coun­try's au­tonomous Kur­dish en­clave over con­trol of oil wealth and land along the so-called "dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries" where both re­gions claim con­trol.

Kirkuk, 170 km (100 miles) north of the cap­i­tal, is at the heart of the dis­pute. Last year Bagh­dad and the Kur­dis­tan re­gional government sent ri­val forces to towns close to the dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries.

Sev­eral armed groups are ac­tive in Kirkuk, and Sunni Is­lamist in­sur­gents linked to al Qaeda of­ten at­tack se­cu­rity forces in an at­tempt to un­der­mine Ma­liki's government and stoke sec­tar­ian ten­sions.

Al Qaeda's lo­cal wing, Is­lamic State of Iraq, though weak­ened af­ter years of war with Amer­i­can troops, has ben­e­fited from the in­flow of Sunni Is­lamists and arms into Syria where Sunni rebels are fight­ing Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad.

Sui­cide bomb at­tacks are the hall­mark of the Iraqi al Qaeda wing, and the group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for a sui­cide bomb­ing that killed a Sunni law­maker last month in Fal­luja.

But Kirkuk has also been home to the Naqsh­bandi army or JRTN, one of sev­eral in­sur­gent groups made up of former sol­diers and mem­bers of Sad­dam's out­lawed Baath party.

Iraqi Arabs, Kur­dis­tan's government and Kirkuk's mi­nor­ity Turk­men all lay claim to the city, known to some as the "Jerusalem of the Kurds" - a ref­er­ence to its his­tor­i­cally dis­puted sta­tus.

Last month a sui­cide bomber dis­guised as a mourner killed at least 26 at a funeral at a Shi'ite mosque in the nearby city of Tuz Khur­mato, and days ear­lier a sui­cide bomber driv­ing a truck killed 25 in an at­tack on a po­lit­i­cal party of­fice in Kirkuk.

The level of vi­o­lence in Iraq is lower than at the height of sec­tar­ian slaugh­ter in 20062007, when tens of thou­sands died. But more than 4,400 peo­ple were killed last year in at­tacks and bomb­ings, the first in­crease in deaths in three years.

Iraqi se­cu­rity forces in­spect the scene of a bomb­ing in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Bagh­dad on Sun­day.

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