Baghdad (dpa) – Casualties from Tuesday’s bombings in the northern Iraqi Sinjar district stood at 344 dead and 396 wounded – with the toll possibly rising, a local mayor said Friday.
Searches were continuing for 70 further people reported missing, Mayor of al-Biaaj district in Ninewa province, Abdul-Rahim al-Shimri, told the independent Voices of Iraq news agency.
Earlier reports had already speculated that the final death toll would approach 500, with hundreds more wounded.
Four massive explosions went off simultaneously Tuesday night in Sinjar district, near the Syrian border, in one of the bloodiest acts of terrorism Iraq has seen.
Sinjar, 120 kilometres north-west of Mosul, is home to the Yazidis, a religious sect with about a third of a million followers in villages around Mosul, which lies 405 kilometres north of Baghdad.
The government of the Kurdish region had announced a day of mourning on Thursday and strongly denounced the attack, calling it a “barbaric act” against civilian Kurd.
A 340-strong Kurdish Peshmerga force was sent in to restore security and provide protection, Voices of Iraq cited an official Peshmerga source as saying.
Hundreds of people from the towns of Baschiqa and Bahzani in Ninevah province, where many Yazikis live, staged a protest Friday to condemn the attacks, a Ninevah official said.
Protesters including Christians, Muslims and Yazkis held banners denouncing terrorism, calling for Baschiqa and Bahzani to be made part of the Kurdish autonomous region and demanding the protection of the autonomous Kurdish region’s government.
In other developments, Iranian forces Thursday night resumed bombing the border areas in Iraq’s Kurdish region, a senior Kurdish military officer said.
Iranian artillery shelled a number of villages, setting fire to large areas of agricultural land and forcing villagers to flee, senior officer Hussein Ahmed said in Sulaimaniya.
Iranian and Turkish forces had shelled two northern Iraqi border cities in the Kurdish autonomous region on Thursday.
Targeted in the attack were the bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) from Iran, sources said.
Kurdish villages in the northern province of Arbil were bombed in the morning by Turkish forces, starting fires in agricultural lands and houses in two villages, an official Pershmerga source said.
Similarly, an intense Iranian strike in the province of Sulaimaniya caused terror among residents of a number of villages as well as significant property damage, local officials said.
In other developments, insurgents on Thursday attacked US forces from a Sunni mosque in Tarmiyah, 50 kilometres north of Baghdad, with small-arms fire, the US military reported. One soldier had died of his wounds while another was treated and returned to duty.
Another US soldier had died in Baghdad Thursday of non-battle related cause, the US military said. An investigation into the cause of death was being conducted.