x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

24 killed in wave of attacks in Iraq

An explosives-packed vehicle driven by a suicide bomber has blown up outside the offices of a major Kurdish party.

Fire fighters look for survivors at the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party after a bomb attack in Kirkuk.
Fire fighters look for survivors at the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party after a bomb attack in Kirkuk.

BAGHDAD // An explosives-packed vehicle driven by a suicide bomber blew up outside the offices of a major Kurdish party in a disputed Iraqi city yesterday. It was the largest attack in a wave of morning strikes that left at least 24 dead and scores wounded across the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but car bombs and coordinated attacks are favourite tactics for Sunni insurgents such as Al Qaeda's Iraq branch.

They seek to exacerbate divisions within Iraq in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government.

The blast, outside the Kirkuk offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, caused widespread damage, mangling cars and tearing apart shopfronts. The party is led by Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region, who has frequently sparred with the government in Baghdad.

The deputy police chief in the city of Kirkuk, Maj Gen Torhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef, said the bomb killed 11 people.

Another car bomb that exploded nearby claimed two more lives, and more than 100 people were wounded by the two attacks, he added.

Kirkuk, 290 kilometres north of Baghdad, is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, who all have competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq's north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.

The city is at the heart of a snaking swath of territory at the centre of a dispute between the Kurds, who have their own armed fighting force, and Iraq's central government.

A car bombing in Tuz Khormato, another contested town along the disputed area, struck the local headquarters for Kurdish security forces yesterday, killing five and wounding 36, according to Raed Ibrahim, the head of the provincial health directorate.

And in the western city of Fallujah, a planted bomb went off as mourners gathered to bury a prominent Sunni legislator who was assassinated by a suicide bomber on Tuesday, wounding three of them, authorities said.

The politician, Ayfan Saadun Al Essawi, was part of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which holds some posts in Iraq's loose power-sharing government, but is at the same time the main force in opposition to the administration of the prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki.

In Baghdad, gunmen using silenced weapons killed three officers sitting in a police car, according to police and hospital officials.

A roadside bomb hit a police patrol on a highway in eastern Baghdad, killing two officers, officials said.

And one policeman was killed and four others wounded when a roadside bomb struck their car in Hawija, 240km north of Baghdad.

Yesterday's attacks were the deadliest in the country since New Year's Eve, when a string of attacks in Kirkuk and other areas left at least 26 dead.