Attackers kill 33 at police HQ in Iraqi city
By Mustafa Mahmoud, ReutersKIRKUK, Iraq -- 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.
February 4, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
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 blood0ed 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-Qaida try to inflame sectarian conflict in Iraq, where a power-sharing government split among Shiite majority, Sunni and ethnic Kurds has been in crisis since the last U.S. troops left a year ago.
Shiite 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.