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: