BAGHDAD, (AP) – A truck bomb exploded during rush hour Sunday on a busy commercial street in northern Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding about two dozen, Iraqi police and health officials said.
The explosives-packed small truck blew up some 200 yards away from a passport office in a Sunni Arab district, a police officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
At least two women were among the dead, the officer said. The wounded included four women and three policemen, he added. Health authorities confirmed the casualties.
It was the first major bombing in Baghdad since last Monday, when three suicide bombers killed more than 30 people and wounded hundreds during a Shiite religious procession.
Sunday’s attack came just hours before Iraq’s parliament is scheduled to convene a special session aimed at defusing tension over Kurdish demands to incorporate the oil-rich Kirkuk area into their autonomous region in Iraq’s north.
The dispute over Kirkuk and its vast oil wealth has blocked passage of legislation providing for provincial elections this year, a major U.S. goal aimed at reconciling Iraq’s rival ethnic and religious communities.
More than 1,000 Sunni Arabs and Turkomen rallied Saturday against Kurdish demands in the town of Hawija, near Kirkuk. Tension is high, after a suicide bomb attack killed 25 people last week during a Kurdish protest.
“I hope they can reach a solution that fits all parties and prevents the situation from deteriorating further,” said Yelman Ayad, a 59-year-old Turkoman who sells spare car parts in Kirkuk.
“The mistakes of politicians brought us to this stage. Our social fabric was torn up in Kirkuk, and this is very dangerous for all of Iraq,” Ayad said.
Serwan Ahmed, a 35-year old Kurd, also called on the lawmakers to reach consensus. “They have to settle all their differences, otherwise it will lead to a crisis in all Iraqi cities,” he said.
Last month, Iraq’s parliament approved legislation to hold elections for local councils in all 18 provinces, including Tamim, where Kirkuk is located.
The measure said seats on the ruling council in the Kirkuk area should be divided equally among Kurds, Turkomen and Arabs. It would also transfer security responsibilities in Kirkuk to mostly Arab military units brought from central and southern Iraq instead of those already there — an apparent move against Kurdish troops heavily deployed in the area.
But Kurds and their allies, who currently hold a majority on the council, oppose the power-sharing formula. Iraq’s three-member presidential council rejected the measure and sent it back to parliament after President Jalal Talabani — a Kurd — opposed it.
Saied Saleh al-Jabouri, a 26-year-old Sunni Arab who owns a supermarket in Kirkuk, criticized that step.
“It was a democratic process, why did they reject it?” he asked. “We (Arabs) are against any new resolution that could affect our presence in this city.”
Parliament adjourned for a one-month summer recess last week but agreed to hold a special session Sunday to try to resolve the standoff and approve a new election bill. Electoral officials have said failure to pass the bill could delay the nationwide vote until next year.
The United Nations has recommended postponing provincial elections in the Kirkuk area as a way of ensuring the balloting elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, a clash between U.S.-allied fighters and civilians killed one civilian Sunday and wounded 10 others, local police said.