Blasts in Kirkuk Kill 26; Police Bureau Destroyed

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 18, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 -- A wave of seven suicide car bombs and explosions rocked the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Sunday, killing at least 26 people and wounding 85 others, police said.

The restive northern city -- considered a likely flash point for sectarian violence because of its combustible mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens -- declared a state of emergency and hastily put up dozens of checkpoints to thwart further attacks, police Maj. Jalal Mahmood Aras said.

The attacks were the most recent bloodshed in a bitter struggle between Arabs and Kurds to take control of Kirkuk, the country's third-largest city. Iraq's new constitution calls for a referendum to determine whether the Kirkuk region will become a part of the Kurdish north.

In the deadliest attack, a suicide truck bomb exploded about 10 a.m. outside the Kirkuk police department's bureau of major crimes, which is between the offices of the country's two major Kurdish parties. The blast killed 18 people and wounded 58, said Maj. Gen. Hazim al-Khazraji, the general inspector of the Kirkuk police.

"The explosion was so big that it flattened the whole bureau building to the ground," Khazraji said from the hospital, where he was being treated for injuries suffered during the attack.

Minutes later, two blasts targeting police patrols in southern and central Kirkuk killed one person and wounded 12 others, Khazraji said.

Another car bomb exploded in front of the house of Sheik Wassfy al-Assy, a tribal leader who has called for the release of Saddam Hussein. Two people were killed and five others wounded, police Col. Taha Salahaldeen said.

Two minutes later, a remote-controlled car bomb exploded near a security company in central Kirkuk, killing two people and wounding three. As U.S. forces gathered at the scene, a suicide bomber exploded his Toyota near the crowd, killing three people and wounding seven others, police Capt. Farhad Mahmood said.

The string of attacks in Kirkuk came as police in Baghdad reported the discovery of 24 bullet-riddled corpses that had been dumped in various parts of the capital. Armed men also assassinated Muhammad Shihab al-Dulaimi, an official with the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni political bloc in parliament, while he was driving his car in the capital's Mansoor district, said Brig. Gen. Fadhil Abdul Muhsin of the Interior Ministry.

In Fallujah, a volatile city in the Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold of western Anbar province, two suicide car bombs exploded within minutes as the drivers tried to ram into a U.S. military base, killing at least three Iraqi police officers and wounding five others, police Capt. Ammar Yasser Halbousy said.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq asserted responsibility for the two attacks in a statement distributed at mosques in Fallujah.

U.S. forces sealed off the entrances to the city and imposed a curfew on some neighborhoods. Messages blasted on loudspeakers warned residents to remain in their homes until further notice.

Also on Sunday, tribal leaders in Anbar province denied news reports that local chieftains had gathered recently and agreed to join forces to fight al-Qaeda.

"All the talk and rumors that you may hear about alliances or new initiatives to wipe out al-Qaeda by the tribes in Anbar is all pure nonsense," Sheik Faraj Khalid Essawi said. "We wish that we could build a strong tribal alliance against al-Qaeda to defeat them and reestablish security in our area and rebuild the dignity and the stature of the tribal sheiks. But frankly, we are unable to stand up to or to confront al-Qaeda because even the American army itself has not succeed in defeating it."

Also Sunday, the U.S. military announced that a sailor assigned to the 1st Marine Logistics Group died Saturday from combat injuries in Anbar province.

Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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