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Iraqi restaurant blast kills 50

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Inside the restaurant where the bomb went off

A suicide bomber has killed at least 50 people at a restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a regional official has told the BBC.

Around 100 people were also injured in the blast at the Kurdish restaurant, some 5km (three miles) north of the ethnically mixed city, police say.

Kurdish officials were in the restaurant having lunch with Arab tribal leaders at the time.

The blast came as Muslims celebrated the Eid-al-Adha holiday.

Map

Families were eating lunch in the Abdullah restaurant, located on the main road to Irbil, when it happened.

A suicide bomber activated an explosives belt in the middle of the restaurant, officials and at least one witness say.

A branch of the same restaurant in Kirkuk was hit by a car bomb last year, with 25 people killed.

Relations in Kirkuk have often been tense between Iraqi Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens.

Bereaved families

A restaurant guard said the explosion had happened shortly after a man had parked his car outside and walked into the building.

I don't know where my children and my father are
Rezkar Mahmoud
Wounded survivor, 24

The injured were taken to Kirkuk's main hospital, with 30 of them in a serious condition, an AFP news agency reporter says.

As the authorities appealed for blood donors, the reporter met families bereaved by the blast.

Outside the emergency room, a five-year-old boy was crying, saying he had lost both of his parents.

Reskiya Oji, a 49-year-old Turkmen who was wounded in the arm and the leg, said from a hospital bed that her daughter, four, had been killed and she did not know the fate of her two sons.

Rezkar Mahmoud, a 24-year-old Kurd who was wounded in the leg, said he had been having lunch with his father, wife and children.

"The restaurant was full when the bomb exploded," he said. "It sent glass flying and destroyed the walls.

"I don't know where my children and my father are."

At the restaurant, the floor was littered with broken glass and spotted with blood while plates of food and soft drinks cans stood abandoned on tables.

The deputy head of Kirkuk's provincial council, Rebwar Talabani, said the restaurant had been popular with politicians.

"It was packed with people who go there because it's safer [than other restaurants]," he told al-Jazeera TV.

"All kinds of people would go there, even politicians would hold their big meetings there."

Disputed region

The deputy governor of Kirkuk, Saeed Rakan, told the BBC Arabic service that the attack appeared to have been politically motivated.

A man carries an injured girl from the scene of the blast
Children were among the casualties

A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan delegation was meeting councillors from the al-Hawija area, he said, adding: "I think al-Hawija councillors were the target. A number of them sustained light injuries. The bodyguards of al-Hawija council chairman were badly injured."

Although violent incidents in Iraq as a whole have dropped sharply this year, the area around the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul remains dangerous, the BBC's Humphrey Hawksley reports from Baghdad.

Tension is so high in Kirkuk that provincial elections planned for most of Iraq next year will not be held in the city, our correspondent adds.

Control of oil-rich Kirkuk is disputed between Iraqi Arabs, Kurds and ethnic Turkmens.

Iraqi Kurds believe they should control the city, which has a Kurdish majority, but it lies outside their semi-autonomous northern enclave.

Ethnic Arabs and Turkmens say it should be under the control of the central government.



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