Suicide bomber kills 47 at Iraq funeral
A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs.
The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.
The explosion, in a working class neighborhood of this northern city, destroyed a large tent pitched next to a smaller one on a grassy patch in the courtyard of a mosque. Survivors scrambled to get the wounded to a hospital, lugging them to ambulances and cars in blankets or prayer rugs as a strong smell of gunpowder filled the yard.
At first, some mourners thought it was an air strike — but once they smelled the gunpowder, they said they knew it was a suicide bombing.
Blood was spattered across the grass, car windows were shattered and survivors wailed as corpses were loaded onto the backs of pickup trucks. Others simply folded newspapers over the faces of the dead. The body parts that were strewn around the area were believed to be of the bomber.
Mosul has been a hotbed of insurgent violence, and the scene of many bombings, drive-by shootings and assassinations targeting the country's security services, majority Shiites and people thought to be working with U.S.-led forces.
Dealing with the persistent insurgency will be a main task for a new Iraqi government.
Officials said the deal between the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish parties opens the way for naming a Cabinet when Iraq's democratically elected National Assembly convenes Wednesday.
The Kurds agreed to support the alliance's candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. In exchange, the alliance will back Jalal Talabani as Iraq's first-ever Kurdish president. The Kurds will receive one major Cabinet post — one fewer than they demanded.
"We told the Kurds that if they are going to have the presidency, then they could have only one major cabinet post because Sunnis should have one major cabinet post," said Ali al-Dabaghal, a ranking member of the alliance who has participated in the negotiations.
On the thorny issue of territory, officials in both political camps said the deal provides for the eventual return of 100,000 Kurdish refugees to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, southwest of Mosul.
The government will discuss returning the refugees and redrawing existing Kurdish autonomous regions to include the city, according to the deal. While in power, Saddam Hussein relocated Iraqi Arabs to the region in a bid to secure the oil fields there and brutally expelled the Kurds. Many of the Kurds who want to return to Kirkuk are now living in tent cities.
Officials said any land agreement would be incorporated into the country's new constitution, which must be drafted by mid-August and approved by referendum two months later.
"As for Kirkuk, we agreed to solve the issue in two steps. In the first step, the new government is committed to normalizing the situation in Kirkuk, the other step regarding annexing Kirkuk to Kurdistan is to be left until the writing of the constitution," said Fuad Masoum, a member of the Kurdish coalition, who served as head of the Iraq's former National Council.
He added that the new government "is obligated to normalization in Kirkuk, the return of deported Kurds to their main areas (in) Kirkuk."
Al-Dabagh, the alliance member, confirmed that the government would deal with both issues.
"We agreed with the Kurds that these two issues are to be solved through the government and they agreed on this. ... We told them that the issues will be discussed as soon as the central government is formed," al-Dabagh said.
Other Kurdish demands include a share of the region's oil revenues, the right to maintain their peshmerga militia and a bigger share of the national budget, more than the 17 percent they now receive.
"With regard to the financial resources, this was solved. Kirkuk resources will be given to the government which will spend them fairly to reconstruct all provinces. As for the peshmerga, they will be joined in the security bodies, such as border guards, local police," al-Dabagh said.
He said the Kurds had demanded to keep a local peshmerga militia force of 100,000, but that "we told them that the Defense Ministry will decide how many peshmerga are needed under the condition that there will not be a separate peshmerga unit."
The Kurds, who comprise about 15 percent of the population, emerged as king makers because they voted in large numbers in the Jan. 30 national elections and won 75 seats in the 275-member National Assembly. The alliance won 140 seats and needs Kurdish support to assemble the two-thirds majority to elect a president, who will then give a mandate to the prime minister.
Sunni Arabs, who make up only about 20 percent of the population but were favored under Saddam's regime, largely stayed away from the elections — either to honor a boycott call or because they feared being attacked at the polls by insurgents.
A doctor at Mosul's hospital, Saher Maher, said 47 people were killed and that U.S. troops took 10 "very critical cases" to a medical facility on their base in the city. American troops also were seen bringing medical supplies to the hospital. The U.S. military said more than 100 were injured.
In other violence, gunmen killed two district police chiefs and two others Iraqis in attacks in Baghdad on Thursday, and an accountant working for a Kurdish television station was killed in northern Iraq.