Truck bomb attack kills 65 people in Iraq (Lead)

June 21st, 2009 - 1:10 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, June 20 (DPA) At least 65 people were killed when a truck packed with explosives detonated outside a mosque in northern Iraq Saturday, the police said.
It was the deadliest in a wave of attacks across the country little more than a week before the June 30 deadline for US soldiers to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns.

Some 175 others were wounded in the blast outside the Shia Rasul mosque in Taza, some 30 km south of Kirkuk, police in Kirkuk told DPA.

Police added that the explosion caused “severe damage” to the mosque and nearby buildings, and that casualties were still arriving at hospitals in Kirkuk.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani condemned “the heinous crime” that “killed and injured scores of innocent Turkmen brothers”.

Taza is predominantly populated by members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority.

The bombing sought to “derail … fraternal dialogue with Iraqi Turkmens under the umbrella of a single, unified nation. We strongly condemn this crime and call upon the authorities to arrest and punish the perpetrators,” Talabani said.

He said the government would pay $1,000 to the families of those killed and $300 to those wounded as a token of sympathy.

In an address to Turkmens earlier Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had celebrated “the great victory” of US soldiers’ withdrawal from Iraqi cities and towns ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Al-Maliki repeated his previous warnings that fresh attacks might accompany the US troop withdrawal.

“Many don’t want us to succeed. … They are making their plans in the shadows to destabilise (Iraq). But we will defeat them,” he said.

The afternoon’s truck bombing appeared calculated as an answer to the prime minister’s comments. There were other attacks throughout the day.

In the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, a child died and eight other people were wounded when two mortars hit a police station and a nearby house, police there told DPA.

In Falluja, once the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the Iraq war, a man detonated explosives packed in his car as a police patrol passed, killing all four policemen and himself.

In the northern city of Mosul, which remains among Iraq’s most dangerous despite successive security operations, insurgents killed four people in separate attacks through the city.

Gunmen killed a police officer and his mother as they shopped in western Mosul’s al-Maash market. In the western district of Yarmuk, gunmen killed a second officer, police said.

But the worst of the day’s violence was in Kirkuk. The intended target of that attack was a senior police officer, whose convoy was passing by.

Kirkuk, with its rich oil reserves, has for decades been the subject of dispute between Iraqi Kurds, many of whom hope to make it the capital of an independent Kurdistan, and the government in Baghdad, which views it as an integral part of Iraq.

Turkmen parties have vehemently opposed the city’s incorporation into an independent Kurdistan. In July 2008, a spokesman for the Turkmen Front told the Iraqi Kurdish newspaper Chawder that his constituents would “rather be part of China than Kurdistan.”

Thousands of Iraqis displaced from Kirkuk in the Saddam era have returned to the area since the 2003 US-led invasion, but the country has repeatedly delayed taking a decision on Kirkuk’s future. The region did not participate in January’s provincial council elections.

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