Bombers, gunmen attack disputed Iraqi-Kurd areas

Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:55am EST
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KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - Bombers and gunmen killed at least 26 people in attacks mostly in northern Iraqi towns and villages on Monday in the second consecutive day of violence in areas at the center of a bitter feud between Baghdad and autonomous Kurdistan.

The ethnically mixed "Disputed Territories" - the swathe of land marking Iraq from the area administered by Kurds in the north - have been a potential flashpoint for conflict since the buffer of the last American troops left a year ago.

Two blasts hit a Shi'ite district in Tuz Khurmato, killing at least five and wounding 24 and a truck bomb killed seven in a Shabak minority area near Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of the capital, security and local officials said.

"The bombers are trying to stir tensions, but we are telling them we will be more unified by these attacks," Tuz Khurmato Mayor Shalal Abdul told Reuters. "Those who were killed here include three children and an elderly man."

No armed group claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks, but the explosions came at a time of heightened tensions between the Arab-led central government in Baghdad and ethnic Kurds over contested land and oil rights.

One person was killed and five were wounded in four blasts around the religiously mixed city of Baquba in Diyala province, where areas neighboring Kurdistan are disputed, police said.

A string of attacks, mortar rounds and bombs killed more than a dozen more in other areas in Iraq.

Last month, Baghdad and Kurdistan sent troops and tanks from their respective armies to reinforce positions around towns in the contested territories, escalating tensions in their long-running dispute, especially over Kirkuk.


Students inspect a damaged house after a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed