x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

19 dead in spate of Iraq violence

A spate of apparently coordinated attacks across Iraq on the eve of the Islamic new year killed 19 people and wounded more than 150 others yesterday.

KIRKUK, Iraq // A spate of apparently coordinated attacks across Iraq on the eve of the Islamic new year killed 19 people and wounded more than 150 others yesterday.

The 13 bombings and shootings in Baghdad and nine other cities will raise tensions in a country mired in political deadlock and which has only recently emerged from a brutal sectarian war.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence, but Al Qaeda's front group in Iraq frequently carries out coordinated bombings and attempts mass-casualty attacks in a bid to destabilise the government.

Yesterday's worst blasts struck in Kirkuk, a disputed ethnically mixed oil-rich province in north Iraq frequently targeted by militants seeking to sow communal violence, where at least nine people were killed and 39 wounded.

Two car bombs and a roadside blast in Kirkuk's capital killed five people and wounded 34 others, while another explosives-packed vehicle targeting an army patrol in the town of Hawijah, also in Kirkuk province, left four dead and five others wounded, officials said.

"My child was killed, his friends were killed!" Shukriyah Rauf screamed at the site of the worst of the Kirkuk city attacks, where a car bomb and a roadside bomb in a majority-Kurdish neighbourhood killed five. "There is no security here, our homes were destroyed."

The attack that killed Mr Rauf's child struck close to offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraq's most powerful Kurdish political party, which is led by Massoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdistan region.

Nearby buildings and vehicles were badly damaged, with shrapnel, rubbish, and bloodstains on the street. Another attack in the city wounded seven street cleaners.

"The car bomb targeted our friends. They are not police, soldiers or politicians," said Jassim Al Obeidi, a cleaner who escaped unscathed. "They just wanted to make a little money."

Kirkuk province lies at the centre of a tract of territory claimed by both the central government and the Kurdish region, and the unresolved row is cited by diplomats and officials as the biggest long-term threat to Iraq's stability.

South of Baghdad, near the city of Hilla, a car bomb in a car park near a crowded marketplace killed five people and wounded 77 others.

In the town of Hafriyah, another car bomb left four dead and 15 wounded, while a car bomb near Baghdad's Firdos Square, the site where Iraqis pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein just after the 2003 US-led invasion, killed one person and wounded six others.

* Agence France-Presse