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29 dead in deadly Iraq attacks

KIRKUK, Iraq: A wave of attacks in Baghdad and north Iraq killed 29 people yesterday, officials said, as hundreds attended the funeral of a Sunni MP who died in a suicide attack a day earlier.
The violence, which struck mostly in disputed territory in north Iraq and left at least 235 people injured, was the deadliest this year.
It comes as Iraq is engulfed in a political crisis with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki facing several protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls for his ouster from many of his former government partners.
Yesterday’s deadliest attacks struck the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, where two car bombs in the same neighborhood killed at least 16 people and wounded 190 others, according to provincial health chief Sadiq Omar Rasul.
“Both explosions inflicted massive destruction,” said police Brigadier General Sarhad Qader. “Our forces are still trying to remove corpses from the rubble (of the first attack).”
The first blast was detonated by a suicide attacker during the morning rush hour and appeared to target a compound housing local offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.
A second car bomb parked on the side of a road nearby detonated shortly thereafter, apparently targeting a KDP official.
Qader said six members of Iraq’s security forces were killed and 10 others wounded in the two blasts.
Another suicide car bombing in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, also north of Baghdad, killed four people and wounded 30 others. The attack struck near the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Both Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu lie in a tract of disputed territory in north Iraq that Kurdistan wants to incorporate into its autonomous three-province region against the wishes of the central government in Baghdad.
The row is regarded as the biggest long-term threat to Iraq’s future stability.
In Baghdad five separate attacks left six people dead, officials said, while bombings in Baiji, Hawija and Tikrit, all north of Baghdad, killed three people and wounded seven others.
yesterday’s overall death toll was the highest since Dec. 17, according to an AFP tally.
Meanwhile, a top minister said that government has freed around 400 prisoners since Sunni Arabs began anti-government demonstrations last month, and will press on with more releases on a daily basis.
Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani said that a committee formed in the wake of the protests would accelerate the process of reviewing prisoners’ cases and would look to immediately release those who had been proven innocent.

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