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Bomb rocks disputed Iraqi city Kirkuk, killing 4

BAGHDAD – A powerful suicide car bomb struck the local headquarters for the party of a key Kurdish leader early Wednesday in the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least four and wounding dozens, according to officials.

The blast outside the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party caused widespread damage, mangling cars and tearing apart storefronts. The KDP is led by Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region, who has frequently sparred with Iraq’s central governor in Baghdad.

Kirkuk provincial council chairman Hassan Torhan said 90 people have been wounded, suggesting the death toll could rise.

The blast comes amid rising tensions along Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian divide.

Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, who all have competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.

The city is at the heart of a snaking swath of territory disputed between the Kurds, who have their own armed fighting force, and Iraq’s central government. A shootout in another area along the contested area prompted both sides to rush troops and heavy weapons to the area in November.

Violence has fallen since the peak of insurgency several years ago, but lethal attacks still occur frequently.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, but car bombs are the hallmark of Sunni insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq.

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