Truck bomb kills more than 70 in northern Iraq
BAGHDAD – A truck bomb exploded as worshippers left a Shiite mosque in northern Iraq on Saturday, killing more than 70 people and wounding nearly 200 in the deadliest bombing this year.
The blast near Kirkuk – a city rife with ethnic tensions – came hours after the prime minister warned Iraqis to expect more violence as U.S. troops withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of this month, but he insisted the deadline will be met “no matter what happens.”
The Americans already have begun pulling back combat troops from inner-city outposts in Baghdad, Mosul and other urban areas ahead of the June 30 deadline set in a security pact that calls for a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by 2012.
But continued assassinations and high-profile explosions have heightened concerns that Iraqi forces are not ready to take over their own security.
Worshippers were leaving the mosque in Taza, 10 miles south of Kirkuk, following noon prayers when the truck exploded, demolishing the mosque and several mud-brick houses across the street, according to police and witnesses.
The death toll rose to at least 72 as more bodies were found beneath the debris, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir of the Kirkuk police force said earlier that at least 63 people were killed and 170 were wounded, but he expected the number to rise.