Bombing at posh Kirkuk restaurant kills 47, injures more

BAGHDAD — A suicide attack at a posh restaurant in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday killed 47 people and injured more than 100, shattering a calm that had settled over Iraq during the four-day Eid al Adha holiday.

The Abdullah restaurant was packed with a lunch crowd that included members of a district council that represents the western half of Kirkuk Province. They were expecting a visit from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who had not arrived at the restaurant at the time of the blast.

Two members of the governing council are believed to be injured. One official from the Kurdish Democratic Party is believed to be dead, as is one official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, according to Kirkuk police. Talabani is head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

A government official confirmed that Talabani is in Kirkuk, and planning to meet with local representatives on Friday.

Witnesses described the restaurant as bustling with the voices of children and holiday travelers moments before the blast.

"You could hear their laughter and playing, but suddenly everything ended," said Allen Raouf, 30, who was eating lunch at the restaurant when the attack occurred.

"The sight was tragic after the explosion," he said. "The bodies of adults and children were torn apart and strewn on the floor."

Khadijah Mohammed, 50, lost her 16-year-old son in the explosion. She ran along the road connecting the restaurant to Kirkuk's emergency hospital, crying.

"My son has become a body," she said. "He was invited by his friends to have lunch on the last day of Eid. He went out with them. He told me that they will have a nice time in this restaurant and reluctantly, we allowed him to go, and now he is just a body."

Brig. Gen. Sarhad Kardir, chief of Kirkuk's district and suburban police, said it was possible that someone had tipped off a terrorist cell about the presence of district council members in the restaurant.

Oil-rich Kirkuk has been a fairly safe city in recent months. It is considered a disputed territory between the Kurdistan Regional Government to its north and Baghdad's central government. The Kurdish government wants to annex it within its semiautonomous zone.