Attack on police base in Kirkuk sees 30 dead, 70 hurt
Gunmen dressed as policemen set off suicide car bomb and lobbed grenades in security building
A suicide car bomb followed by an assault by grenade-throwing gunmen on a police headquarters in a disputed ethnically-mixed city in north Iraq killed 30 people yesterday.
The vehicle that was detonated in central Kirkuk was painted to appear as though it was a police car, and the militants who sought to seize the compound were dressed as policemen, witnesses said.
The attack shattered a relative calm in recent days in Iraq, which has been grappling with a political crisis pitting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against his erstwhile government partners amid weeks of ongoing protests calling for him to resign, less than three months before key provincial elections.
No organisation immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Sunni militants including al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq frequently target security forces and government targets.
The initial suicide car bomb was set off during morning rush hour, and was quickly followed by three gunmen dressed in police uniforms, armed with hand grenades and suicide vests, bursting through the main gate of the Kirkuk police compound.
They threw multiple grenades as they sought to reach the building, but were killed before they could get there, witnesses said.
"I saw a vehicle stop at the checkpoint at the main entrance, and the police started checking it," said Kosrat Hassan Karim, who was nearby when the attack took place.
"Suddenly, a loud explosion happened, it was terrifying.
"I saw many people killed inside their cars - I have never seen such a big explosion in my life."
Brigadier General Natah Mohammed Sabr, the head of Kirkuk city's emergency services department, put the toll at 30 dead and 70 wounded.
Police largely cut off traffic in the centre of the city and evacuated offices and businesses in the area. They managed to defuse one of the attackers' suicide vests, but were still working to disarm the other two.