Triple Bombing Kills At Least 80 In Iraq

A suicide car bomber ploughed today into a Kurdish political party's office in Kirkuk, triggering a blast that killed at least 80 people and wounding 180 others, the city's police chief said. MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images

A suicide truck bombing followed by two smaller car bombs killed more than 80 people and wounded at least 180 Monday in what's believed to be the deadiest attack in this northern city since the start of the war, police said.

The blasts in this city of deep tensions between Kurds and Arabs came as Sunni insurgents were believed to be moving north, fleeing a U.S. offensive around Baghdad and consolidating to carry out deadly bombings.

The massive explosion from the truck bomb around noon blasted a 30-foot-deep crater and damaged part of the roof of the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of President Jalal Talabani.

The main street outside the office was strewn with blackened husks of two dozen cars, and at least 10 shops were damaged, as well as part of the fence of the nearby Kirkuk Castle, a historic fortress that is one of the city's most prominent landmarks. The blast killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 183, according to police Brig. Burhan Tayeb Taha.

Twenty minutes later, a car bomb exploded about 700 yards away in the Haseer market, an outdoor souk frequented by Kurds, Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir, the police chief, told The Associated Press. The market was largely empty after the first attack, and the explosion caused several injuries.

Hours later, a car bomb exploded in the Domiz region of southern Kirkuk, killing a police officer and wounding six other policemen, Tahir said.

Oil-rich Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, is a center of tensions between Arabs and Kurds, who want to include the area in the autonomous Kurdish region of the north. Violence in the city, though frequent, tends to be on a smaller scale of shootings, roadside bombs and kidnap-slayings. Monday's blasts came just over a week after one of the Iraq conflict's deadliest suicide attacks hit a village about 50 miles south of Kirkuk, killing more than 160 people.

Iraqi officials have said Sunni insurgents are moving farther north to carry out attacks, fleeing U.S. offensives in and around Baghdad, including in the city of Baqouba, a stronghold of extremists on the capital's northwestern doorstep. The month-old sweeps, fueled by 28,000 new U.S. troops sent to Iraq this year, aim to pacify the capital and boost the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, said Monday he's "extremely doubtful" that al-Maliki will be able to secure the country and allow American forces to leave any time soon. President Bush, however, reaffirmed his strong support for al-Maliki.

U.S. troops launched a new offensive south of Baghdad against insurgents Monday, aiming to cut off another staging ground for attacks on the capital — the latest around Baghdad as part of the "surge" of 28,000 new American troops sent to Iraq this year.

CBS News reporter Phil Ittner says about 1,000 U.S. troops, along with some Iraqi army soldiers, have gone into the area about 22 miles south of the capital city to flush out insurgents. For the past month, U.S. and Iraqi forces have been waging offensives in the region southeast of Baghdad and in the city of Baqouba, 35 miles to the northeast

At the same time, the U.S. military has been carrying out a stepped-up security sweep in Baghdad, hoping to bring calm to the capital and boost the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The U.S military said in a statement that the new sweep "aimed at preventing the movement of weapons, munitions and insurgents into Baghdad." It did not give an exact location of the offensive, but in recent days U.S. commanders have said they plan new operations to cut off an insurgent supply route southwest of the city, running from western Anbar province.

Violence appears to have eased in Baghdad in recent weeks — but attacks, including deadly car bombs, remain a daily occurrence.

In other developments:

  • For the second day in a row, a car bomb hit the central district of Karradah on Monday, explosing near Masbah Square, killing one person, wounding three others and leaving nearby shops burned, a police official said. On Sunday, a car bomb went off about a half mile away, killing 10 people.

  • The situation for Iraqi children is getting worse, and in some respects it was better before the war, a senior U.N. official said Monday. "Children today are much worse off than they were a year ago, and they certainly are worse off than they were three years ago," said Dan Toole, director of emergency programs for the United Nations Children's Fund. He said Iraqis no longer have safe access to a government-funded food basket, established under Saddam Hussein to deal with international sanctions.

  • Mortar shells hit a residential area in Abu Dhsir, a south Baghdad Shiite enclave surrounded by Sunni neighborhoods. The attack killed three civilians and wounded six others, said another police official.

  • Republican unity on Iraq, strained but so far holding, is coming under still more pressure in the Senate as lawmakers from both parties float proposals to get troops out soon. Democrats will try again this week to set a deadline for the reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq. On the GOP side, two moderate Republicans with respected foreign policy credentials have proposed their own hurry-up initiative, winning a polite but clear rejection from the White House. (Read more)

  • On Sunday, 22 bullet-riddled bodies were found dumped in various locations of Baghdad, apparently the latest victims of sectarian violence, police said. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the reports.
    • Alfonso Serrano

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