Kirkuk mourns 38 people after suicide bombing at crowded cafe
Violence in Iraq killed 47 people on Friday, with the deadliest attack a suicide bombing that ripped through a crowded cafe, leaving 38 dead, police and doctors said.
The bomber struck at a cafe in the city of Kirkuk as people thronged the streets after the iftar meal that breaks the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Thirty-eight people were killed and 29 wounded in the south Kirkuk blast, police and Dr Ibrahim Shakur said.
Dozens of family members of the victims gathered in front of the main hospital in Kirkuk, some with blood on their clothes.
People cried and screamed, waiting to know the fate of their relatives.
"While people were gathered in this cafe, a fat man entered ... and we didn't hear anything except 'Allahu akbar' (God is greatest), and then everything was destroyed," said Ahmed al-Bayati, who was wounded in the leg.
"There were burned wounded people and burned martyrs," he said.
All cafes in Kirkuk closed after the attack, the first time a suicide bomber targeted a cafe in the city.
"We closed our cafe in case there were more attacks," said Yahya Abdulrahman, the owner of a cafe in the same area as the bombing.
"We don't know why we were targeted today," he said.
"Those that were targeted today are people of Kirkuk from all its components," Abdulrahman said, referring to the various ethnic and religious groups that make up the city.
Police and Kurdish security personnel deployed in force around the site of the attack and the hospital.
Iraq has been hit by a surge in violence that has killed more than 2,500 people have been killed this year, including over 300 this month alone.
Analysts point to widespread discontent among Iraq's minority Sunni community, and the Shiite authorities' failure to address their grievances, as the main factors driving the increase in violence.
Attacks mainly targeting security forces killed nine people earlier on Friday.
Gunmen shot dead police Brigadier General Sabri Abed Issa on his way to a mosque near Sharqat, northwest of Baghdad. Others killed a retired policeman outside his home in Muqdadiyah, northeast of the capital.
In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a police checkpoint, killing four policemen and wounding two more.
A magnetic "sticky bomb" also killed a civilian in Mosul, while a roadside bomb south of the city killed a policeman and wounded another.
And a "sticky bomb" killed an anti-Al-Qaeda militiaman and wounded another person near Baquba, also north of the capital.
Friday's attacks came a day after a wave of violence killed 56 people, 31 of them members of the security forces.
In Thursday's single worst incident, gunmen shot dead 11 police charged with protecting the country's vital oil infrastructure and three soldiers on the road between Haditha and Baiji, northwest of Baghdad.
In another bloody attack on Thursday, a car bomb ripped through a funeral tent where family members of a Shiite man were receiving condolences in Muqdadiyah and a suicide bomber detonated explosives when emergency personnel arrived.
Sunni militants including those linked to Al-Qaeda frequently target members of Iraq's Shiite majority, whom they regard as apostates.
Iraq was plagued by sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of people in past years, and there are persistent fears that tensions will again boil over into all-out conflict.
Violence in the country has declined from its peak at the height of the sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, but the number of deaths in attacks has been rising since January.