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MID: Iraq truck bomb near oil-rich Kirkuk kills at least 22

By Marwan Ibrahim
20 Jun 2009 10:58 PM

KIRKUK, Iraq, June 20 AFP - A truck bomb has killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens more in a town south of Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the bloodiest attack to hit the country in a month, officials say.

The attack struck near a mosque in Taza, a predominantly Turkmen Shi'ite town, at around 1pm (2000 AEST) on Saturday and claimed women and children among its victims, the head of the morgue at Kirkuk hospital said.

"We have received 22 bodies and dozens of wounded from the bombing," Ibrahim Mahmoud told AFP.

Major Salam Zangana of the Iraqi police also said 22 people were killed while 125 others were wounded, many of them seriously.

A senior police source, who did not want to be identified, put the toll at 30 dead and more than 125 wounded, and added that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and appeared to have been an al-Qaeda bombing.

The source added that more than one tonne of explosives had been used in the bombing.

"The bombing is a big disaster, the criminals and killers chose this time to attack because it is when farmers return home to their houses for lunch," Majeed Azzat, a member of Kirkuk's provincial council, said.

The attack, which took place around 400 metres from the Shi'ite al-Rasoul mosque, also seriously damaged dozens of houses, with police saying that many victims could still be under the rubble.

An AFP reporter at the scene said the bomb left a deep hole in the ground.

In the aftermath of the attack, police called on local residents to donate blood at nearby hospitals.

It is the bloodiest attack in Iraq since May 20, when a car bomb tore through a Baghdad street full of diners, killing 40 people and wounding 83.

More recently, a car bomb on June 10 in a market in Batha, in the largely peaceful southern province of Dhi Qar, killed 19 people and left 56 injured, an attack blamed on al-Qaeda.

The Taza bombing comes barely a week ahead of a deadline for US troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities, towns and villages as part of a landmark security accord signed between Washington and Baghdad in November.

The agreement calls on US forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned earlier this month that insurgents and militias would likely step up their attacks in the coming weeks in a bid to undermine confidence in Iraq's own security forces.

Violence has dropped markedly in Iraq in recent months, with May seeing the lowest Iraqi death toll since the 2003 invasion. But attacks remain common, particularly in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.

Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, is plagued with intercommunal tensions among its Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab communities.

Those tensions among the 900,000-strong population prevented the staging of provincial elections in Kirkuk on January 31, when the rest of Iraq except the three Kurdish provinces voted for new councils.