Kirkuk, Iraq – A triple bombing killed 27 people and wounded scores outside a police station Thursday, heightening tensions in a northern Iraqi city already on edge after a string of kidnappings and attacks against security officers.
The new violence adds to strain that already besets Kirkuk, a city that has long been plagued by ethnic squabbles over land and oil fields. Iraqi and U.S. officials long have feared Kirkuk and the disputed lands surrounding it – sandwiched between Arab villages and an autonomous Kurdish region – could destabilize the country if American forces leave at the end of this year on schedule.
The first blast, a bomb stuck to a car in a parking lot in central Kirkuk, lured policemen out of their fortified headquarters to investigate around 9 a.m., said police Capt. Abdul Salam Zangana. Three minutes later, a second blast rocked the lot when a car packed with explosives blew up in the crowd of police.
The third bomb, planted on a road leading to a hospital, set cars and trucks ablaze when it exploded about 550 yards away less than an hour later. Zangana said it targeted a police patrol near a mosque.
In all, the blasts killed 27 – most of them police officers – and wounded at least 60 people.
NATO: Air power will topple Gadhafi
London – NATO’s top official said Thursday that the air campaign in Libya had seriously damaged Moammar Gadhafi’s ability to fight and that continued military and political pressure would “eventually lead to the collapse” of the North African dictator’s regime.
But two months into its aerial onslaught, there are signs of impatience within the alliance that Gadhafi has managed to cling to power so long and worries that the confrontation risks settling into a protracted stalemate unless NATO ratchets up its operations.
Over the last several days, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has picked up the tempo of its strikes on targets associated with Libyan security forces. On Wednesday, the alliance struck 53 times, bombing suspected command and intelligence centers and ammunition dumps.
The increased bombardment reflects a push by some NATO members, Britain in particular, to muscle the conflict past a potential war of attrition and into an endgame.
Gadhafi’s continued control of Tripoli, the capital, and much of western Libya has frustrated Libyan rebels as well as NATO leaders.
On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted that the alliance was on track.
“We have significantly degraded Gadhafi’s war machine,” Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. He added that a “combination of strong military pressure and increased political pressure and support for the opposition will eventually lead to the collapse of the regime.”