Truck Bomb Kills At Least 19 In Northern Iraq

An Iraqi man sits in the ruins of a Kurdish village after a predawn suicide truck bombing in Wardek, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Mosul in northern Iraq, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009. (AP Photo)

— A suicide truck bomber hit a Kurdish village in northern Iraq before dawn Thursday, killing at least 19 people and injuring 30 others, officials said, in what appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks targeting Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups in the region.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents who remain active in Mosul and surrounding areas in Ninevah province.
A police officer and a health official in Mosul said the bomb went off around 12:30 a.m. in the village of Wardek, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the city – a region where U.S. commanders have warned that insurgents appear to be trying to stoke an Arab-Kurdish conflict.
"The ongoing terrorist and criminal acts in Ninevah are aimed again at the Kurds, Turkomen, Shiites and Yizidis – they are ethnic cleansing operations in which hundreds of innocent people have been killed," Abdul-Muhsin al-Saadoun, a lawmaker of the Kurdistan Alliance parliamentary bloc, said at a press conference in Baghdad after the attack.
The officials in Mosul spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Local security forces fired on the driver of the truck when he refused to stop, but he was still able to detonate his bomb. A second assailant in another explosives-laden truck was shot and killed before his bomb exploded.
About 250 families live in the village of simple mud-brick houses, scores of which were turned to rubble, while others had roofs caved in and windows blown out.
Residents picked through the ruins, pulling out what possessions they could and loading them onto pickup trucks.
The villagers, Shiite Kurds from a small religious sect, blamed Sunni al-Qaida in Iraq for the attack.
"I'm certain that we were targeted by al-Qaida extremists as they consider us renegades," said one resident, 53-year-old Haso Narmo.
Narmo's family was injured when the blast brought down part of his house as they were sleeping. He said he drove relatives to a hospital for treatment.
"When I returned to the village this morning, it was like an earthquake had hit," he said.
Insurgents in northern Iraq, who have maintained a stronghold in the city of Mosul, have frequently targeted remote villages and towns that depend on small security forces for protection.
The violence that continues to plague Iraq's north and the capital has forced the government in Baghdad to acknowledge gaps in security.
In an indication of how deep the problem is, the government of the semiautonomous Kurdish region said it had arrested the head of the provincial intelligence service on Thursday, Brig. Abdul-Rahman Ali, on accusations he was directly involved in the planning of an Aug. 13 bombing near Mosul.
The double suicide bombing devastated a cafe packed with young people, killing 21 people, in Sinjar, a city dominated by members of the Kurdish-speaking Yazidi religious group that is concentrated near the Syrian border.
He was arrested after four other people being held in connection with the bombing said he had ordered the attack, the government intelligence service said.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have identified the split between Iraq's majority Arabs and the Kurdish minority as a greater long-term threat to Iraq's stability than the Sunni-Shiite conflict.
At the heart of the dispute is the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as well as villages in Ninevah province like Wardek that the Kurds want to incorporate into their semiautonomous area despite opposition from Arabs and the minority Turkomen ethnic group.
In other violence, three successive bombs exploded at a popular market in the city of Mahmoudiya, killing four people and wounding 30, an Iraqi military officer in the area said. Mahmoudiya is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad. The officer did not want to be identified because he is not allowed to release information publicly.
The violence that has continued in the Mosul area and in and around Iraq's capital is a central issue in the campaign for national elections in January.
The head of Iraq's electoral commission warned Thursday that parliament needs to resolve differences over a new draft election law and pass it within two weeks if the vote is to go ahead as planned on Jan. 16.
Among other things, the law would determine how seats will be allocated and whether voters can select individual candidates or only an entire party list.
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