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11 killed in bombing in Kirkuk

Times Staff Writer

A car bomb Friday killed 11 people in a Kurdish district of Kirkuk, Iraqi police said, and a U.S. military helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing south of Baghdad.

Forty-five people were wounded in the explosion in the Hurriya neighborhood of Kirkuk, 25 shops were destroyed and nine cars set ablaze, police Col. Sarhad Qadir said.

Attacks have been increasing in the Kirkuk region; a bombing last month in the town of Amerli killed about 150 people. Al Tamim province, of which Kirkuk is the capital, is divided by ethnic tensions pitting Kurds against Arabs and Turkmens, who oppose the Kurds’ goal of annexing the oil-rich province to their semiautonomous region of Kurdistan.

In Kirkuk, market stall owner Salah Amin said he was closing his shop for Friday afternoon prayers when the blast threw him down, causing cuts on his arms and legs.

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“The extremists and the terrorists from Al Qaeda are behind this explosion because they are against all of Iraq,” he said.

He said Al Qaeda militants had come there from Diyala province to the south, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have cleared cities and towns of insurgents in recent months.

“They are taking shelter in Kirkuk to destroy the city’s security through igniting a war among its residents, including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians,” Amin said.

The attack appeared to raise mistrust among Kurds, as their leaders invoked tragedies suffered by the minority under Saddam Hussein.

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“Such an act is proof enough that terrorists are broken now and they are the same criminals whose hands were stained with the blood of the innocents earlier in Halabja and Anfal,” said Rizgar Ali, Kurdish politician and head of the provincial council. He was referring to the 1988 Iraqi military campaign against the Kurdish minority, which included the gassing of an estimated 5,000 Kurds in Halabja.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said a helicopter was forced to land in Yousifiya, 10 miles southwest of Baghdad. It was not clear whether the aircraft had a technical problem, hit an electrical wire or came under fire. The area is rife with Sunni and Shiite militant activity. The military said two personnel suffered minor injuries and that the incident was under investigation

In the Shiite Muslim shrine city of Karbala, a representative of the country’s preeminent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, took a veiled swipe at Sunni Arab politicians, suggesting that they are corrupt and that they support car bombings. It was the latest salvo by clerics against the faltering government, which has now had a walkout by 17 of 37 Cabinet members.

“Some officials prefer Iraq to their personal interests and then there are others who are the other way around. . . . You see them taking money abroad to build palaces or bringing money into the country to buy car bombs,” said Ahmed Safi.

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Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani was due in Baghdad today, raising hope that his presence would end the walkout by the main Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, or Tawafiq, an Iraqi official said.

His visit would clear the way for a meeting of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the presidency council and other key leaders that should seal the return of the Sunnis to the Cabinet, he said.

The U.S. military said it had killed four Sunni militants and detained 10 others in Baghdad and around Salahuddin province, north of the capital. Eight people were killed in other bombings and shootings around the country, police said.

For a third straight day, the number of bodies dumped in Baghdad was low, with six corpses found.

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The drop in violence was tied to a citywide curfew enforced for a Shiite religious ceremony Thursday marking the anniversary of the death of the 8th century Imam Musa al Kadhim.

ned.parker@latimes.com

Times staff writers Zeena Kareem, Wail Alhafith, Saif Hameed and Said Rifai and a special correspondent in Kirkuk contributed to this report.


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