KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - Bombs targeting ethnic Kurds killed four people on Tuesday in the city of Kirkuk in Iraq’s disputed northern territories, where the Iraqi army and troops from the autonomous Kurdistan region have been in stand-off for more than a week.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks although Sunni Islamist insurgents including a local affiliate of al Qaeda continue to strike regularly, killing 144 people across Iraq in October alone.
The latest bomb attacks come after troops from Baghdad and the Kurdistan region moved in last week on the territories over which both the central government and the Kurds claim jurisdiction.
On Tuesday a car bomb exploded meters away from the office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the contested city of Kirkuk killing two people, police said. A second explosion followed in the same area, killing a third person, according to a security source.
“When the explosion happened, I felt the house was collapsing on us,” said 22-year-old Ahmed Germi, a Kurd living in the house adjacent to the KDP’s office, whose clothes were stained with blood.
Kurdish residents of Kirkuk were blocking roads with rubbish bins and other obstacles to prevent potential attackers from entering their area, a Reuters reporter said. Police sirens wailed and the smell of smoke, blood and gunpowder filled the air.
A car bomb in another Kurdish district of Kirkuk killed at least one person. The three blasts also wounded 38 people, police and hospital sources said.
“Problems were created by the officials but we are the victims,” Germi said through tears.
The military stand-off brings to a head a row over the formation of a new command center for Iraqi troops to operate in the oil-rich disputed areas.
Kurdish officials say the Dijla Operations Command is a threat to them, but Baghdad’s Shi‘ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says it is necessary for security.
Kirkuk police colonel Yaseen Hassan linked the political crisis with Tuesday’s attacks: “they targeted Kurdish areas at a time when there is a crisis between the central government and the (Kurdish) region; it is a proof that they are trying to stir sectarian strife.”
Explosions also hit the town of Tuz Khurmato on Tuesday, the site of a clash between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi troops last week, which triggered the current military build-up.
There were also blasts aimed at police and the army in the town of Hawija in Kirkuk province, a car bomb wounded several people in the city of Mosul, and a car bomb near Baghdad wounded four people.
Additional reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Greg Mahlich