A double bombing killed at least 27 people, almost all of them police, and wounded an additional 70 in a parking lot outside the main police offices the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, according to security officials.
It was the second major attack against police forces this month, after 16 people were killed in a blast outside a headquarters in the southern city of Hilla, the first week of May.
The bombings along with recent jail break attempts in Basra and Baghdad have put Iraq’s forces under new scrutiny as the last of the U.S. troops prepare to leave the country at the end of the year. “This has the fingerprint of Al Qaeda,” said Brigadier Jamal Tahi, Kirkuk’s head policeman.
Kirkuk is rife with ethnic and sectarian tensions among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, all of whom view themselves as the rightful owners of the province with its immense oil reserves. The Kurds wish to annex the Kurkuk region to Kuridstan, while Arabs insist it belongs to Baghdad. Despite eight years of American-backed efforts to mediate a solution, the sides remain at loggerheads. Armed groups hope to exploit the population’s differences with bombings and killings.
On Thursday, a bomb exploded in a parking lot popular with many police and Kurdish intelligence officers, who often mingle and drink tea there. The bomb was hidden on a car. Eight people were wounded, all of them police. Officers worried about damage to their cars rushed to the parking lot and right into the plotter’s trap. The attackers then detonated a second car bomb, which killed all 27 people; according to witnesses and security officials.
“I always left my car in this park. Most of our friends left their cars in this place,” said policeman Fadl Ahmed. “I saw about 20 policemen’s bodies. There were too many wounded. Everyone was crying. There was too much blood all over the place.”
Ahmed mourned his friends who had just been killed.
“I saw one of my officers. I had said good morning to him by the lot and when I came back, he was dead.”
A roadside bomb also exploded wounding eight policemen in a convoy rushing to respond to the attack on the police headquarters.
The dead and wounded included Arabs as well as Kurds, all of whom are represented on the province’s mixed police force.