Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen — all with competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.
In the attack, a car bomber drove his vehicle into the Kirkuk police headquarters, two police officers said. Then a bomb placed in a parked car was detonated. After the second explosion, two suicide attackers armed with machine guns and grenades tried to storm the station. They were killed before they could enter the building or detonate their belts rigged with explosives.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, car bombs and coordinated attacks are favorite tactics for Sunni insurgents, such as al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.
The insurgent attacks are part of Iraq’s persistent sectarian strife. In recent months, tensions have been mounting between the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minority.
Tens of thousands of Sunnis have taken to the streets, complaining of official discriminations, while the central government has exchanged threats with the leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq over Kirkuk and foreign oil contracts.
Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.