String of deadly Iraq bombings reflects Kurdish-Arab tensions

03/23/2009 11:14 AM

04/09/2009 9:48 AM

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber attacked mourners at a Kurdish funeral in a town north of Baghdad, killing at least 25 and injuring at least 45 in the worst of a series of four bombings around Iraq Monday. Altogether, 37 people were killed and 60 were wounded in the attacks.

The violence reflects rising tensions between Iraq's Kurds and Sunni Muslim Arabs. Kurds want to incorporate lands that the Arabs controlled during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Arabs are angered by what they consider Kurdish efforts to annex Arab lands along a 300-mile strip from the Syrian border to Diyala province, and especially the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Some U.S. officials fear that if the tensions escalate into more widespread ethnic and sectarian violence, they could upset a U.S.-Iraqi agreement of the status of American forces in Iraq, Iraqi elections later this year and the Obama administration's plans to redeploy thousands of U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

"There are many people that want to put more obstacles in the path of the federal and the regional governments and to provoke tensions between them," said Mohsen Saadoun, a Kurdish lawmaker. "The federal government should cooperate with the Kurdistan regional government to control the security situation."

The assault on the funeral Monday occurred in Jalawla, a majority Kurdish town about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad where the Shiite-led Iraqi Army and Kurdish Security Forces share control. The suicide bomber detonated as men grieved in a funeral tent for a Kurdish man on the third and final day of mourning for Hamid Khodada, when the largest crowd gathers to pay its final condolences to the family of the deceased.

On Monday evening, men searched through the destruction for their relatives and called out the names of their loved ones as they wept. Family members tried to find their missing relatives among the burned bodies in the local hospital, but the fire ignited by the bomb had charred them beyond recognition.

Most of the injured were transferred to the larger city of Suleimaniyah in the Kurdish region because there wasn’t enough space or medical supplies to treat them.

"There will be new mourning inside every Kurdish house," said Deshti Ali, whose cousins were injured in the blast. "Everyone is afraid that today is the start of a new chain of explosions in the city."

Blood also spilled elsewhere in Iraq on Monday.

In Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, a bomb planted in a mechanic's shop killed at least nine people and injured 23. In Nineveh province, two suicide bombers, one in Tal Afar near the Syrian border and another in downtown Mosul, killed one policeman, injured four others and wounded five civilians.

(McClatchy special correspondent Hammoudi reported from Baghdad; McClatchy special correspondent Taha reported from Suleimaniyah. A McClatchy special correspondent who can't be named for security reasons reported from Baquba.)

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