Militants open fire, kill six in capital of Iraqi Kurdish region
By Abdel Hamid Zebari, AFPARBIL, Iraq--Militants killed six people in the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Sunday, officials said, in a rare attack on an area usually spared violence plaguing the country.
September 30, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman said the deadly attack may be linked to the bloody civil war in neighboring Syria, where jihadists have battled Kurdish forces.
A senior Kurdish security official said two militants opened fire at the headquarters of the “asayesh” security service in Arbil, then entered and blew themselves up.
An explosives-rigged ambulance also detonated at the scene, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Kurdistan region health minister Raykot Hama Rashid told journalists that six asayesh members were killed and more than 60 people wounded in the attack.
An AFP journalist heard three blasts in Arbil, and heavy gunfire. Smoke could be seen rising in the air, as ambulances raced to the scene.
While much of Iraq is plagued by near-daily violence that kills hundreds of people each month, the three-province Kurdistan region in the country's north has largely been spared the deadly unrest.
Sunday's blasts were the first to hit Arbil since May 2007, when a truck bomb exploded near the same asayesh headquarters, killing 14 people and wounding more than 80.
'Revenge against the Kurds'
“Syria has affected all of us,” the Iraqi premier's spokesman Ali Mussawi told AFP, adding that the attacks may be “one of the offshoots of the Syrian crisis.”
Iraqi security analyst Ali al-Haidari agreed.
“The attack is linked to the differences between the Kurds and Al-Nusra Front,” Haidari said, referring to a rebel jihadist group that operates in Syria.
“Today's attack is Al-Nusra Front's revenge against the Kurds inside Kurdistan,” he said.
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has become increasingly embroiled in the bloody conflict raging across the border in Syria.
Clashes last month between Kurdish forces and jihadists seeking to secure a land corridor connecting them to Iraq pushed tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border, seeking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Region president Massud Barzani has threatened to intervene in the Syrian conflict to protect Kurdish civilians, although officials have since backtracked on those remarks.