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Bomb attacks kill 24 in oil-rich Iraqi city

84 wounded; politicians debate federalism plan

An Iraqi tried to put out a fire after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, Iraq, yesterday. Kirkuk is at the center of the country's oil fields, which has been the subject of rival claims by Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen.
An Iraqi tried to put out a fire after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, Iraq, yesterday. Kirkuk is at the center of the country's oil fields, which has been the subject of rival claims by Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen. (Yahya Ahmed/ Associated Press)

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Six bombs killed 24 people and wounded 84 yesterday in Kirkuk, a northern oil city that the Kurds want added to their self-ruled region. The violence occurred as politicians argued over federation legislation that a Sunni Arab party warned could tear Iraq apart.

The tortured bodies of 15 people were found elsewhere, probable victims of worsening sectarian reprisals, and the U S military announced that a sailor assigned to the Marines died Saturday from wounds suffered during combat in Iraq's restive Anbar Province .

A joint U S -Iraqi operation Diwaniyah rounded up 32 people suspected of terrorism. The city, 80 miles south of Baghdad, was the site of a recent clash between the mostly Shi'ite Iraqi army and a Shi'ite militia; the fighting that killed 23 soldiers and 50 other people.

There was no indication who was behind the bombings in Kirkuk, a city 180 miles north of Baghdad that lies in the center of Iraq's vast northern oil fields and is the subject of rival claims by the region's Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen.

The worst assault involved a suicide truck bomb that exploded in the city center, killing 18 and wounding 55. A few hours later, a suicide car bomb rammed into a joint U S-Iraqi army patrol in the south of the city, killing at least three bystanders and wounding eight people.

Two roadside bombs and two bombs in parked cars went off in other parts of the city, killing three and wounding 21, including two policemen and four soldiers.

In the biggest bombing, a gunman in the truck also fired on civilians before the vehicle exploded near Kirkuk's criminal court and the headquarters of the two main Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, police said.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is headed by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani. The Kurdistan Democratic Party is led by the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani.

Barzani angered many Iraqis when he ordered Sept. 1 that the national flag be replaced by the Kurdish banner on all government buildings in the Kurdish self-rule zone. Sunni Arabs, in particular, fear Kurds will use a federal system to push for full secession.

Thousands of Kurds were forced to flee the Kirkuk area during Saddam Hussein's regime, which pursued an ``Arabization" campaign to force out ethnic Kurds and Turkomen. Kurds now want to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region, an idea that has been caught up in the debate over the proposal to transform Iraq into a federate state.

The second - largest Sunni Arab party, the National Dialogue Front, yesterday rejected a proposal to pave the way for a federal system, arguing that would result in the division of the country.

The Front's call for the bill to be dropped was made a day before a planned informal meeting of leaders from all parties in parliament to discuss the legislation, which was proposed last week by the main Shi'ite Muslim alliance.

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