Bombing in Kirkuk Kills 55; Did it Target Talabani?

A massive suicide bombing at a restaurant just north of Kirkuk killed 55 persons and wounded 120 on Thursday. The restaurant was the site of parleys between Arab tribal shaikhs and officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan seeking a political solution to the disposition of the oil city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. The Arab negotiators were from the Awakening Council of Hawija.

Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic that UN Special Representative Steffan de Mistura said that the bombing was intended to provoke ethnic reprisals and raise ethnic tensions. (The bombing took place on the last day of the Eid al-Adha festival, so it was especially provocative. De Mistura called on all community leaders to call upon their followers to exercise restraint.

The bombing was clearly intended to deter peaceful compromises. It was likely the work of guerrillas who hope to use Arab-Kurdish disputes as a vehicle to destabilize the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi president and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani had arrived in the city the day before and was due at the restaurant himself. The massive size of the blast makes one wonder if the perpetrators thought Talabani was already present, and whether this was in part an assassiantion attempt. The killing of Talabani under such circumstances by persons presumed to be radical Sunni Arabs could have provoked a civil war.

AP has video:

Although some reporting on the bombing wonders if such incidents will deter a US troop drawdown, it should be remembered that this attack occcured in a place where the US does not have many troops to begin with.It is not clear what US troops could have done about it.