Another bitter surprise struck Iraqis preparing for the upcoming feast Eid al-Fitr that ends the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A suicide car bomber struck a busy market in the disputed city of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing seven and injuring 50 people.
The target of the attack in a predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, was a police convoy of three cars ferrying the city's traffic police chief and his guards, police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said.
Three of the policemen were among the seven killed and the chief, Salar Faqi Rasheed, a Kurd, was wounded. The blast also set on fire seven butcher shops and grocery stores, along with three cars in the street.
"This explosion killed a lot of innocent people, these criminals don't want people to feel happy at Eid," said butcher Sarko Mohammed.
Kirkuk is an ethnically mixed city of mainly Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen and a referendum on its fate is scheduled to take place before the end of the year. Kurds want to annex it to three northern provinces where they have a semiautonomy, a move rejected by Arabs and Turkomen.
Attacks in Kirkuk have stepped up since the U.S. military offensives this spring against al-Qaida strongholds in the Diyala province, south of the oil-rich Kirkuk, which is the capital of Tamim province, pushed insurgents farther north.
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