Iraq: al-Qaeda plot to spark Kurdish conflict?

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral for the father of a Kurdish regional government official in northern Iraq’s Diyala province March 23, killing 25 people and wounding 45. The bombing in the town of Jalawla underscores the dangers Iraq still faces from militants, even as overall violence falls to levels not seen since mid-2003 and the US prepares to withdraw combat troops by Aug 31, 2010. Jalawla is a mostly Kurdish town, and the Kurdish regional government in a dispute with Iraq’s central government over who should control the area.

Jalawla lies on the disputed border of the Kurdish autonomous zone and was one of several towns that saw tense standoffs between Iraqi central government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters last year. By bombing a Kurdish event, militants could be trying to spark ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds, just as al-Qaeda in Iraq provoked a conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ite Arabs in 2006 and nearly tore Iraq apart.

Earlier on March 23 a bomb at a west Baghdad bus terminal killed nine civilians and wounded 23, Iraqi police said. It was the second bomb attack this month in the predominantly Sunni Arab district of Abu Ghraib. (Arab Times, Kuwait, CNN, March 23)

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