Suicide Truck Bombing Kills 20 in Kurdish Village in Northern Iraq

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 11, 2009

BAGHDAD, Sept. 10 -- A man driving a truck laden with explosives plowed his vehicle into a Kurdish village in northern Iraq before dawn Thursday, killing 20 people, wounding 27 and wrecking dozens of houses, officials said, in the latest attack aimed at deepening strife among the region's tapestry of sects and ethnicities.

Police said the carnage in the village of Wardek, about 35 miles southeast of Mosul, could have been far greater. A second explosives-laden truck followed the first across a narrow bridge, but security forces managed to kill the driver before he detonated his load.

The blast was the bloodiest in a violent day in Iraq. Although strife has ebbed from its breathtaking levels of 2006 and 2007, assassinations, bombings and killings remain a daily part of the landscape, particularly around Baghdad and northern Iraq.

In Mahmudiyah, a town south of Baghdad once part of a region nicknamed the Triangle of Death, an improvised mine detonated in a market, killing four people and wounding 30, police said. The town, safer than in past years, is near the site where a U.S. soldier was killed by an improvised mine Tuesday.

Two bombs also exploded almost simultaneously in a vegetable market in Hilla, south of Mahmudiyah along the same road from Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 20, said Maj. Muthanna Ahmed, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said the explosives were hidden in pushcarts that were smuggled into the market.

At Abu Ghraib prison, where photographs portraying the abuse of detainees by U.S. troops became indelible images of the occupation, inmates began protesting after guards tried to search their cells Thursday. Some burned mattresses, and others tried to free fellow prisoners. Authorities called in dozens of armored personnel carriers and other vehicles to help quell the disturbance, which lasted for hours, prison guards said.

Smoke billowed from the compound, and ambulances ferried out what appeared to be several injured people. Officials in Baghdad said no one was killed in the clashes.

The region around Wardek, the site of the truck bombing, remains, by far, the most combustible in Iraq. The blast laid waste to dozens of the mud-brick houses that provide shelter to the village's 250 families.

The villagers are a minority within a minority -- Kurds belonging to a Shiite Muslim sect. The region around Mosul is among the country's most diverse, with numerous sects and ethnicities sharing a contested, oil-rich land.

"We need the central government to take responsibility to protect these areas," said Azz al-Din al-Dawla, a lawmaker from Mosul, the most dangerous city in Iraq.

Wardek is ostensibly under Kurdish control, and local officials said security forces there blocked the entry of the Arab mayor from a neighboring village.

Nineveh province, home to Mosul and Wardek, is embroiled in a dispute between its Arab-led provincial council and Kurdish politicians who have been effectively marginalized from the local government, which they had led until elections in January. Some Kurdish leaders have threatened to split the province as a way to ensure their representation.

Special correspondents Qais Mizher in Baghdad and Uthman al-Mokhtar in Abu Ghraib contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company