A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a crowded coffee shop late July 12 in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 38 and wounding more than two dozen in the latest in a string of bloody attacks pounding Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan this week. 29 people have also been wounded, AFP reported.
Dozens of family members of the victims gathered in front of the main hospital in Kirkuk, some with blood on their clothes.
People cried and screamed, waiting to know the fate of their relatives. “While people were gathered in this cafe, a fat man entered … and we didn’t hear anything except ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is greatest), and then everything was destroyed,” said Ahmed al-Bayati, who was wounded in the leg.
“There were burned wounded people and burned martyrs,” he said.
All cafes in Kirkuk closed after the attack, the first time a suicide bomber targeted a cafe in the city.
“We closed our cafe in case there were more attacks,” said Yahya Abdulrahman, the owner of a cafe in the same area as the bombing. “We don’t know why we were targeted today,” he said.
“Those that were targeted today are people of Kirkuk from all its components,” Abdulrahman said, referring to the various ethnic and religious groups that make up the city.
Police and Kurdish security personnel deployed in force around the site of the attack and the hospital.
Iraq is being rocked by its deadliest and most sustained wave of bloodshed in half a decade. More than 2,600 people have been killed since the start of April, raising fears that the country is once again edging toward the brink of civil war a decade after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion.
The city is a flashpoint for ethnic tensions, with its mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen holding competing claims to claims for control of the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the Kirkuk blast or other attacks in recent days. But Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, frequently targets Shiites, security forces and civil servants in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. They also are believed to be behind frequent attacks in a band of disputed territories around Kirkuk aimed at heightening ethnic tensions in the area.
Hours before the Kirkuk attack, Sunni cleric Salah al-Nuaimi urged calm among Iraqis during a joint Sunni-Shiite sermon Friday in Baghdad aimed at easing sectarian tensions.
“Enough is enough,” al-Nuaimi told worshippers at a Baghdad mosque. “We all love Iraq, we are all Iraqis and we want to be united. We want to stop the bloodletting, and develop and build Iraq.”
Earlier in the day, a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol outside the northern city of Mosul, killing four policemen, a police officer and a medical official said. Mosul is 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of the Iraqi capital.
And outside the northern city of Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, drive-by shooters armed with pistols fitted with silencers killed a senior police officer. The attack took place in the town Shirqat, a police officer said.
Attacks on shiits ensue
Officials also provided details of new attacks on Iraqi Shiites late the previous night.
In one of the attacks on Shiites, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into a funeral tent for a Shiite family in the town of in Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, officials said. The late Thursday evening explosion killed 13 people and wounded 24, the officials said.
In the northern town of Dujail, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Baghdad, a parked car bomb went off outside a Shiite mosque late on Thursday. As people gathered around the blast site, another bomb went off. That twin bombing killed at least 11 people and wounded 25, mayor Nayif al-Khazrachi said. Two medical officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly, confirmed the casualty figures.