Kirkuk bombing

 

In Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in the north of the country, a truck bomb killed 10 people, including four policemen, at the al-Kuriya police station on Tuesday.

 

Forty-two people were wounded in the attack. Rescuers are still searching for bodies.

 

Kirkuk is just outside the borders of the largely autonomous Kurdistan region and its population is a volatile mix of Kurds, Turkmen and Sunni and Shia Arabs.

 

Iraq's security forces are regularly
targeted in Kirkuk [AFP]

A police source said many buildings in the area were severely damaged by the blast.

 

One resident said he saw many casualties in the street and several buildings had collapsed.

 

Iraqi security forces are frequently targeted by bombers seeking to undermine the US-backed Iraqi government.

 

Police in many areas of Kirkuk have also been infiltrated by militias, making them a target for rival armed groups.

 

Protests

 

Also on Wednesday, dozens of students demonstrated against twin bombings a day earlier at Baghdad's Mustansiriya university, which killed 70 people and wounded nearly 140.

 

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Three days of mourning have been declared by the education ministry.

 

In all, at least 105 people were killed in bombings on Tuesday and a shooting in the capital on a day when the UN said more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in violence last year.

 

The UN said data from hospitals and mortuaries put the total civilian death toll for 2006 at 34,452.

 

Kurdish battalion

 

A predominantly Kurdish battalion based in the northern city of Sulaimaniya, has started the move towards Baghdad as the Iraqi military prepares for a major security operation aimed at pacifying the Iraqi capital.

 

Hundreds of soldiers have boarded dozens of vehicles to begin the trip to Baghdad, 260km away.

 

The Kurds are set for more training [Reuters]
Members of the Kurdish battallion will undergo specialised military training before being deployed in the capital, said Brigadier General Anwar Golani, the brigade's commander.

 

Training will be conducted at a base in western Baghdad under the supervision of US troops.

 

The Iraqi government has not set a date for the new security operation, announced by Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, this month.

 

George Bush, the US president, has pledged to send 21,500 more US troops to Iraq, most of whom will be sent to the Baghdad, as part of his new war strategy.

 

Aid worker killed

 

An American who worked for the National Democratic Institute, a US nonprofit group that promotes democracy, was killed with three guards when their convoy was attacked in Baghdad on Wednesday, the group said.

 

Les Campbell, the NDI's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the three-car convoy carrying the worker and her security guards was attacked as they were leaving a project in Baghdad.

 

He said the security guards killed were Iraqi, Croatian and Hungarian citizens.  

 

Campbell said: "Sometime mid-to-late morning in Baghdad a three-car convoy carrying one of our staff people along with a security contingent was attacked as they left a location where they were conducting an NDI programme.

 

"We do not believe it was a car bomb. It was some other kind of coordinated attack."