Special Reports

Kirkuk calm ends as 116th responds to fatal bombing

A car bomb detonated in a busy traffic circle in Kirkuk Tuesday morning, killing one and wounding as many as 17 other Iraqis. The target was apparently a Kirkuk government official.

Insurgents also fired two mortars into the town Monday night. And a separate roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle of a U.S. Army patrol out of the Kirkuk Regional Air Base about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday Kirkuk time.

No U.S. soldiers were injured in any of the explosions, according to initial reports.

The attacks follow a recent trend of insurgents turning their attention from armed and armored U.S. soldiers in the region and focusing instead on Iraqi citizens and police. On March 18, a roadside bomb killed four Iraqi police officers and injured another four. One police officer was killed in a March 17 bombing.

According to police officials at the Rahem-Awa police station in north Kirkuk, a car with a Mosul license plate parked outside a gas station early Tuesday morning. The driver left the vehicle in the line of cars waiting to get gasoline when the station opened.

Kirkuk's Minister of Sewer and Health was traveling to his office in a motorcade that included a BMW and several SUVs when the insurgent detonated the bomb with a remote device.

Police said the bombing was probably aimed at whoever was driving the government vehicle. The person who detonated the IED when the cars drove past probably figured someone important was traveling in the motorcade, but wasn't specifically targeting the minister, police said.

The IED was probably built with five rounds of 155 mm artillery shells, based on the blast radius and shrapnel recovered from the scene, said 1st Lt. Aaron Jarnagin of Bravo Company of the 116th Brigade Combat Team.

The blast blew the car's engine block an estimated 50 feet, according soldiers who responded to the explosion Tuesday morning. Pieces of the car hung on light poles and the blast buckled metal doors on nearby businesses.

Police hauled the remains of the car to Rahem-Awa police station; all of it could have fit in the back of a standard-sized pickup bed.Hours after the attack, reports on injuries were inconsistent. Different officers had different tallies, but the police chief said Tuesday afternoon that 17 people were wounded and one killed.

There was no word on damages or injuries reported from the mortar attacks Monday night. An Air Force jet pilot dropping illumination flares over the city reported seeing a group of men in three pickups launch a mortar and then flee the area.

The 116th’s Bravo Company combed the neighborhood where the insurgents fled late Monday night. They banged on doors and rousted residents, unsuccessfully seeking information.

— Roger Phillips

Police at the Rahem-Awa police station know firsthand how deadly a car bomb can be.

The faces of seven officers are painted on the wall of the station building.

More than a year ago, two terrorists dressed as police drove through the main gate of the station and detonated a car bomb, killing seven officers.

— Roger Phillips