- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq | A suicide bomber posing as a dairy deliveryman struck a Kurdish security headquarters Wednesday, setting off a series of rapid-fire attacks against the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk that killed seven and wounded up to 80 people.

Within minutes, two more bombs exploded nearby, sending dark plumes of smoke into the clear winter sky and ending a six-month lull in violence in a city rife with simmering ethnic tensions 180 miles north of Baghdad.

The city is divided between Kurds, Turkomen, and Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and has long been feared to be a possible new flash point in Iraq.

Police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said two policemen were among the dead, while five police and eight officials with the Kurdish intelligence forces known as the Asayish were wounded.

Dr. Khalid Ahmed of Kirkuk emergency hospital confirmed the total casualty count of seven killed and as many as 80 injured.

“We had just passed the car bomb - it was less than 40 yards away,” said policeman Meriwan Salih, whose arm was broken and who had shrapnel pierce his back when the third bomb exploded as his patrol sped by. “The huge blast threw me into the air.”

Kirkuk’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir, said the suicide bomber got close to the Asayish headquarters by claiming to be a deliveryman on his way to pick up milk at an ice cream shop next door. Instead, the bomber slammed his pickup truck into a blast wall surrounding the headquarters around 10 a.m., sending flames through the building and damaging its front facade.

The second explosion hit a few blocks away, near a gas station. AP Television News footage showed police cars with blaring sirens racing to the headquarters when the third blast exploded, just down the street from the suicide bomber.

The third bombing knocked people to the ground, and was followed by gunshots.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Gen. Tahir said the Arab militant group Ansar al-Sunna last week threatened to target Kurdish security forces and political parties in Kirkuk.

“We have informed all security headquarters and political parties then to be careful and take security measures,” Gen. Tahir said. He said Kirkuk police also will investigate how the bombers got past security precautions to launch the attacks.

In addition to being an epicenter for ethnic tensions, Kirkuk sits on top of one-third of Iraq’s estimated $11 trillion in oil reserves, and Arabs fear the Kurds want to annex the city to their northern autonomous region.



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