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Twenty dead in suicide attack in Iraq's Kirkuk

Reuters | June 14, 2005
By Aref Mohammed

KIRKUK, Iraq - A suicide bomber killed 20 people and wounded more than 60 at a crowded market in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, police said.

The bomber walked up to people shopping at the market, close to a major bank branch, in the center of the ethnically mixed city, police and eyewitnesses said. He left a scene of devastation, with blood pooled on the street.

"A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up," said Kirkuk police chief Major General Torhan Abdul Qader.

Police and passers-by struggled to help the wounded and load the bloodied bodies of the dead onto pick-up trucks. Wrecked cars lay on the street and the windows of buildings around the marketplace, including the bank, were shattered.

Several U.S. soldiers were also later at the scene.

Some witnesses said they believed the bomber targeted a police patrol that was passing, others that he had mingled with people queuing outside the bank.

Kirkuk, 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, is coveted by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, making it a focus of concern about ethnic tensions in Iraq's potentially wealthy northern oil region.

The motive for the attack was unclear but it came shortly before veteran Kurdish nationalist leader Masoud Barzani was formally sworn in to the new post of elected president of the autonomous region at a ceremony at the parliament in Arbil.

Kurds want Kirkuk as their capital. It lies on the plain, 25 km (15 miles) beyond the present frontier of the mountainous Kurdish area, which comprises three of Iraq's 18 provinces.

At the inauguration ceremony in Arbil, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a powerful Shi'ite Arab force in Iraq's oil industry, pointedly said in a speech:

"Kirkuk should not be a reason to divide Iraqis, on the contrary it should be a motive for uniting Iraqis and reaching a reasonable solution that will satisfy the aspirations of Iraqi Kurdistan and the unity of Iraq and also preserve the rights of people living in Kirkuk, especially the Turkmen."

Near Baquba, northwest of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber killed five Iraqi soldiers when he attacked a patrol in Kenaan, 20 km (12 miles) east of the town, on Tuesday, police said.

Insurgents also hit Kenaan police station with mortars, setting it ablaze, police said.

Since a new Shi'ite-led government was formed two months ago, there has been a surge of suicide car bombings in Iraq, with many targeting Iraqi security forces.

(Additional rporting by Faris al-Mehdawi in Baquba and Omar Anwar and Alastair Macdonald in Baghdad)



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