Car Bomb Kills 54, Wounds 80 in Kurdish-Held Iraqi City

from Times Wire Services

A car bomb exploded in a crowded market street in the Kurdish-controlled Iraqi city of Zakhu on Monday, killing at least 54 people and wounding up to 80, Western and Turkish officials said.

Relief workers reported from the region that the bomb went off before 9 a.m. in the commercial street lined with traders, many from neighboring Turkey.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blast. Past bombings have been blamed by local Kurdish groups on the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which claims sovereignty over the area.

However, two Kurdish groups--the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan--have been battling each other for control of the Kurdish area of Iraq. Zakhu, 12 miles from the Turkish border, is controlled by the DPK.

The Kurdish region was established as a "safe haven" by the U.S.-led allies in 1991 to protect the Kurds from Hussein's wrath after an ill-fated uprising that followed Iraq's Gulf War defeat.

The two Kurdish parties agreed to share power when they came out roughly equal in parliamentary elections in 1992. Riven by ideological differences, however, they started fighting last May, and several thousand people have been reported killed.

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