Explosions rocked Kirkuk on Monday, with massive charges detonating near the offices of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party and less than thirty minutes later at a nearby open-air market. The latest casualty count estimates the number of dead at 80, with 180 wounded, but police have warned there could be more buried under rubble.
Sometime later, a third bomb exploded near a police station in southern Kirkuk, killing one officer and wounding four, and police reportedly discovered and defused another car bomb.
A review of the major media reports show extensive confusion in what kind of attacks occurred. Most outlets refer to both central Kirkuk attacks as being perpetrated by "suicide bombers" without adding any clarifying details. Only AFX writes that one was in motion when it detonated, reporting that the truck "drove past security barriers" before "he slammed a booby-trapped truck" into the PUK offices. But while Forbes reports the first blast perpetrated by a suicide bomber and the rest as regular car bombs, Reuters says the market bomb was a suicide attack, but the explosion near the PUK offices came from a parked car bomb.
The contradictory reporting could be resulting from the confusion that typically muddles coverage after any major incident, but it could also be that the police sources feeding information to the media have an interest in portraying the attacks as the work of suicide bombers.
Since the majority of suicide bombers are foreign-born Sunni Islamists, reports of such attacks lead Iraq-watchers to draw certain conclusions about the nature of the attackers, their allies, and motivations. But reports of car bombs do not immediately lead to that kind of thinking. Hopefully, the confusion in reporting does not indicate a confusion of journalists not understanding the importance of this distinction.
The first bomb contained an estimated four tons of explosives, the police told the New York Times, and was detonated late this morning just outside the P.U.K. building. The P.U.K. controls the southeastern portion of Iraqi Kurdistan.
AP reports the explosion blasted a 30-foot-deep crater in the pavement and collapsed part of the roof of the one-story PUK office. Outside the offices, the burnt shells of more than two dozen vehicles were in the street.
About twenty minutes later, a second explosion hit the outdoor Haseer market in central Kirkuk, less than a mile from PUK offices.
The explosion scattered bodies across the market, set dozens of cars on fire and trapped passengers on a bus where they burned to death, a Reuters cameraman reported.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the Kirkuk attacks, adding the explosions indicate the failure of armed groups.
"What happened today is another indication of the failure and bankruptcy of armed groups," al-Maliki said in a statement reported by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"Your enemy is trying, with heinous crimes against unarmed civilians, to loosen the grip around it in Baghdad, Diala and Anbar, and to cover up its defeat by our armed forces and heroic tribesmen," the statement added.