Irbil Attack "Was Expected"
Kurdish intelligence “expected” an attack that hit the main Kurdish city of Irbil on Wednesday, according to a Kurdish security source.
A truck bomb detonated around 8 am Wednesday morning near the Kurdish regional interior ministry, and a building housing Kurdish security forces, Aswat al-Iraq reports.
The Interior minister of the Iraqi Kurdish region, Zaryan 'abd al-Rahman, announced that 19 people were killed and seventy others injured, among them women and children, in the explosion, AFP reports in Arabic.
Five of the wounded are in critical condition, he added.
One survivor said that he was riding the bus to his work at a local university when the explosion hit. “The bus windows were smashed and my face and head were hurt by shrapnel. A woman beside me fell on my side, her shoulder was broken," one Ahmad Nasroldin said, Al Jazeera reports.
After Wednesday’s explosion, authorities in Sulaymaniya, the second largest Kurdish city were placed on alert.
Kurdish sources did not mention the name of any group responsible, and no claim of responsibility has been reported, but Kurdish authorities suspect the Ansar al-Islam organization, an extremist Islamic group operating in Kurdistan.
The Kurdish MP Mahmoud 'Uthman held a press conference condemning the attack and announcing his suspicions of the Ansar al-Islam organization, Aki News reports in Arabic.
He also blamed Ansar al-Sunna, a militant Sunni Arab group opposed to the US occupation and the current government of Iraq.
The Italian Aki News reports in Arabic that high-level Kurdish sources expected an attack against Kurdish targets in light of recent intelligence information.
“The attack that targeted the city of Irbil was expected, despite the intense security operations in recent days. We had intelligence information that terrorist groups had plans to disrupt security and to bring the instability of Baghdad and central Iraq to Kurdistan,” the source said.
In addition to the observations of Kurdish intelligence, the source also said that many of those recently arrested confessed of schemes to destabilize Kurdistan, Aki News reports.
“Large quantities of weapons and explosives” were discovered in Kurdistan in recent days, the security source said. Kurdish intelligence officials initially believed that these were destined to be smuggled into the rest of Iraq, but later investigations revealed that they were intended for operations inside Kurdish territory, the agency reports.
“Add to this the movements of some terrorist organizations near the Kurdish-Iranian border, in which some of our border posts were attacked several times, these indications provided us with intelligence to expect today’s attacks, and we expect other attempts along these lines,” the Kurdish security source continued.
Without naming parties involved, the security source also criticized “attempts to make changes in sensitive security positions in Sulaymaniya,”
The leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, is implementing changes in the security apparatus around Sulaymaniya, Aki News explains, removing security officials who belong to a rival faction within the PUK, led by Noshirwan Mustafa, who lost the party leadership elections to Talibani several months ago.
Kurdish areas have so far been spared the higher levels of violence that have plagued the rest of Iraq. The last major bomb attack in the Kurdish territories occurred in May 2005, when a suicide bomber killed 46 people in Irbil.