Attacks against Kurdish sect, Iraq workers, kill 12

Attacks against Kurdish sect, Iraq workers, kill 12

Separate car bombs against displaced members of a tiny Kurdish sect and industrial workers left 12 people dead in Iraq today, the latest in a spate of violence since US troops left last month.

The attacks, hot on the heels of the storming of a police compound in west Iraq and a suicide attack on Shiite pilgrims in the south, come with the country locked in a festering political row pitting the Shiite-led government against the main Sunni-backed bloc.

Today's deadliest violence saw a car bomb detonate in the town of Bartala, in Nineveh province north of Baghdad, inside the Al-Ghadir camp housing displaced members of the Shabak community, an army official and Behnam Khales, a doctor at nearby Mosul General Hospital said.

Eight people were killed, including an unspecified number of women and children, and four were wounded in the blast, Khales said.

He said some of the casualties had been transferred to hospital in the nearby Kurdish regional capital Arbil, but did not give further details.

The Shabak community numbers about 30,000 people living in 35 villages in Nineveh, and many want to become part of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

They speak a distinct language and largely follow a faith that is a blend of Shiite Islam and local beliefs.

The community was persecuted under ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq they were targeted several times by Al-Qaeda.

Levels of violence have declined dramatically in Mosul and nearby towns and villages, but the city was once an al- Qaeda stronghold and it is widely cited as one of the places where the network's Iraqi front still holds sway.

Another car bomb on the southern outskirts of Hilla, 95 kilometres south of Baghdad, killed four people and wounded 13 others, according to Adil al-Shammari, a doctor at the central Iraqi city's hospital.

Today's violence came a day after insurgents mounted a wave of attacks in the western city of Ramadi before laying siege to a police compound, raising doubts about security forces' capabilities after US forces completed their withdrawal last month.

The assault left seven policemen dead and 16 wounded, the latest in violence that has killed more than 200 people in less than a month.

US troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, leaving behind an Iraqi security force that officials said could maintain internal security but not protect the country's borders, air space or maritime territory.