Death Toll From Weekend Suicide Bombings in Iraq Reaches 101
The attacks occurred about 10 minutes apart Sunday morning inside the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party in the northern town of Irbil.
Two men detonated explosives inside the reception halls of the two buildings, where Iraqis had congregated to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, holiday.
Several party leaders perished in the bombings, including the KDP’s veteran deputy leader, Sami Abdul-Rahman, and another high-ranking official, Saad Abdullah.
The number of wounded, first estimated at 247, actually totaled 133, said a spokesman for the U.S.-led authority in Iraq, according to Reuters. He attributed the difference to confusion in the aftermath of the bombings.
About 200 people, including children, were attending the KDP reception when a man in his 20s walked into the room wearing a bulging photographer’s vest, said Aziz Ali Achmad, chief of security for the headquarters.
“He came up, reached for a minister’s hand, and then all of a sudden there was a horrible noise and fire everywhere,” Achmad said.
A similar incident occurred at the PUK headquarters, a witness said.
“A man walked up to Shakhawan Abbas [a member of the PUK's leadership council] and while he was shaking his hand, he exploded himself,” said a guard, who gave his name as Mahmoud.
Kurdish television aired pictures of a man it said was responsible for the bombing at the KDP offices and offered a reward for anyone able to identify him, Reuters reported.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and U.S. officials said they were not ruling out insurgents as the perpetrators, but also said early indications suggest the involvement of foreign groups.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt mentioned as possibilities Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist group the PUK accuses of having links to al-Qaida, or al-Qaida itself.
“Our first assumptions are based on the tactics used. When you start seeing people strap on suicide bombs and carrying out suicide bombings your first inclination is to sort of look foreign rather than look here, within Iraq,” Kimmitt told a news conference in Baghdad, Reuters reported.
U.S. administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer said the bombings “constituted a cowardly attack on human beings as well as on the very principle of democratic pluralism in Iraq.”
The attacks followed a series of violent incidents throughout the week in Iraq, including two bombings on Saturday that killed 12 people — among those three U.S. soldiers — in the northern region of the country, the Associated Press reported.
In one attack, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a police station crowded with officers in Mosul, killing at least nine people, including five police officers, and wounding 45.
In the second attack, three U.S. soldiers were killed when a homemade bomb destroyed the humvee in which they were riding. The soldiers, members of the 4th Infantry Division, were traveling south in a convoy about 25 miles southwest of Kirkuk.
Their deaths brought to 522 the number of American service members who have died since the Iraq war began March 20.