55 killed in Kirkuk suicide bombing

A suicide bomber struck inside a popular restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing at least 55 people and wounding dozens more, police said.

A suicide bomber struck inside a popular restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing at least 55 people and wounding dozens more, police said.

About 45 people were wounded in the blast, which occurred at a restaurant about four kilometres north of Kirkuk, the centre of Iraq's northern oil fields, said Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir, commander of the Kirkuk police.

Officials said the bomber struck the Abdullah restaurant, which is located on the main road to Irbil and is popular with Kurdish officials travelling to and from the Kurdish self-ruled region.

A Kurdish official said Arab tribal leaders were having lunch with members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of President Jalal Talabani. They were to attend a meeting with Talabani after the lunch to discuss ways to defuse tensions among Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen in the Kirkuk area.

The were also many families at the restaurant celebrating the final day of the Eid al-Adha religious holiday.

It is affiliated with another Kirkuk restaurant of the same name, which was attacked by a car bomb in 2007 that killed six people and wounded 25.

The reason for Thursday's attack was unclear, but the city has been the scene of long-standing ethnic tension.

The Kurds want to annex Kirkuk and surrounding Tamim province into their self-ruled region in northern Iraq. Most Turkomen and Arabs want the province to remain under central government control, fearing the Kurds would discriminate against them.

Last July, a suicide bomber killed 25 people at a Kurdish political rally in Kirkuk. Angry bystanders stormed the headquarters of a Turkomen party, torching the building and nearby parked cars.