M A I N   N E W S

Twin blasts leave 56 dead in Iraq

Arbil, February 1
At least 56 persons were killed today in twin suicide attacks on offices of two Kurdish political parties in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, medical sources said.

Officials at one of the hospitals that received victims of the blast said they had the corpses of at least 56 persons killed in the bombings. Officials said earlier up to 200 persons had been killed or injured.

‘’According to what I have been told the number of injured and killed at the two headquarters may approach 200,’’ an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said.

Among the dead were the deputy governor of Arbil province and the city’s police commander, witnesses said. Party sources said at least some of those killed were senior officials.

The blasts hit the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the PUK, the main factions in Iraq’s Kurdish north, as officials received visitors for a Muslim holiday.

“The bodies are in pieces, they are trying to collect them ...people are in shock,’’ Peter Galbraith, a former US diplomat with long experience with the Kurds, told Reuters by telephone from Arbil.

“The significance of this is devastating to the leadership of the KDP, one of the US’s biggest allies in the war.’’

Many senior officials of the KDP, which controls a part of Iraq bordering Turkey, and the PUK, controlling the east of the region, were present when the bombers struck.

Witnesses said the attackers made their way through checkpoints outside the party offices, where dozens of people had gathered to celebrate the holiday.

Several senior PUK officials have been targeted in assassination attempts in recent years, attacks they blamed on the Muslim militant Ansar al-Islam group.

Iraq’s US-led occupiers and the Iraqi security forces have been on high alert for attacks during the Id holiday, and a string of blasts across the country killed at least 18 persons yesterday. — Reuters

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