Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wire: Death Toll in Iraq Bombing Rises to 72

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Saturday said the start of the U.S. withdrawal was a "great victory" for Iraq over foreign occupation.
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported Iraqi police and rescue crews are searching through the rubble of a mosque and nearby homes for bodies and possible survivors of a suicide bombing Saturday that killed at least 72 people.

The bombing near a Shi'ite mosque in northern Iraq wounded 163 people. The attack near the city of Kirkuk came just 10 days before U.S. forces are scheduled to pull out of Iraq's urban areas as part of a security agreement that requires all troops to leave the country by the end of 2011..

The suicide bomber set off explosives in a truck as worshippers left a mosque following midday prayers in Taza, a mainly Turkmen town south of Kirkuk. Dozens of homes were destroyed. Medical officials say women and children are among the dead, according to a VOA News report.

No one has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

"The operation has al-Qaida fingerprints," Police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said, adding that an investigation was ongoing. There were conflicting reports about whether the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or if the truck was booby-trapped, the Associated Press said.

Iraq Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said al-Qaeda was resorting to paying people to fight. It had also turned to criminal activities to raise funds.

While violence overall has dropped in Iraq, violent daily attacks continue. In northern Mosul, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol on Sunday killed a bystander and wounded three others, police said.

Baghdad has continued to see a steady stream of bombings and shootings and Kirkuk is viewed as a potential flashpoint.

Saturday Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, said the start of the U.S. withdrawal was a "great victory" for Iraq over foreign occupation.

"I, and you, are sure that many don't want us to succeed and celebrate this victory," he said. "They are getting themselves ready to move in the dark to destabilize the situation, but we will be ready for them, God willing."

(Report from newswire sources.)

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