- KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) — At least 72 people were killed in a truck bombing near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the bloodiest attack in 16 months, local officials said on Sunday.
Saturday's attack in the predominantly Shiite Turkmen town of Taza Kharmatu came just 10 days before a deadline for US troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities and towns as part of a security accord between Baghdad and Washington.
"The toll from the explosion yesterday (Saturday) in Taza is 72 dead," said Sarhad Qadir, the top policeman for Kirkuk's outskirts, who added that more than 200 people had been injured.
Ibrahim Mohammed Jassim, a doctor at Kirkuk's morgue, confirmed the death toll but added: "It is likely that the toll will increase because search operations have not yet concluded."
The attack has been blamed on Al-Qaeda.
The truck was carrying around a tonne of explosives, causing serious damage to dozens of houses in the neighbourhood, with several people killed as their homes collapsed.
"This ugly crime is an attempt to harm security and stability and spread mistrust of the Iraqi forces," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday.
"Our forces... will arrest those who committed the crime in Taza Kharmatu and bring them to justice."
Saturday's attack was the bloodiest since two mentally impaired women were used by Al-Qaeda as unwitting bombers in Baghdad pet markets on February 1, 2008, in twin attacks that killed 98 people.
The Taza bombing comes ahead of a June 30 deadline for US troops to pull back from Iraq's built-up areas ahead of a complete pullout from the country by the end of 2011.