A suicide truck bomber crashed into a police station in the disputed city of Kirkuk yesterday, killing at least 15 people - including an newborn girl and a US soldier - and wounding nearly 200.
Meanwhile, police found the bodies of 21 executed Shi'ite men in Baqouba, an hour's drive north of the capital.
Several girls on their way home from nearby school were among those wounded in the bombing, a possible prelude to the spread of major scenes of chaos to Kirkuk. Days earlier the government adopted a highly controversial plan to move thousands of Arabs out of the oil-rich city.
Arab politicians, mainly minority Sunnis, have rejected the plan, saying it would facilitate attempts by non-Arab Kurds to absorb the city and its surrounding oil riches into the ethnic group's semiautonomous region in the northeast of Iraq. Turkey, which has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency it its southeast for decades, also has warned Iraq against such a move.
Thousands of Kurds have returned to Kirkuk after having been forced out by Saddam Hussein, who moved Arab families into the city in his bid to rid it of Kurds, who he accused of siding with Iran in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Monday's blast bore the hallmarks of the latest in the long series of al-Qaida suicide bombings aimed at further provoking sectarian tension and fighting. It followed three suicide bombings last week by suspected al-Qaida fighters. More than 600 people died in sectarian attacks last week alone.
The Kirkuk blast also was the third in seven days where suicide bombers hit targets with their bombs hidden under loads of flour, a commodity that has been scarce in some outlying districts. The government had only recently resumed shipping flour rations to some of those areas.
The US military reported late last night that a US soldier was killed by a vehicle-bomb in Kirkuk. Two other US soldiers were reported killed the same day in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
Videotape by an Associated Press cameraman at the scene showed at least four wounded US soldiers and one badly damaged American humvee. The soldiers were being treated by Army medics, with one seated while having gauze bandages wound around his bloodied head.
One soldier, whose nose was bleeding, was standing and waving directions at others. A third soldier was carried away on a stretcher, and the fourth was being treated on the ground with his feet elevated against shock.
The attacker rammed the truck into the concrete blast barriers protecting the back of the compound at about 11:30 a.m., Kirkuk police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said.Reuse content