BAGHDAD Bombs planted inside a car killed two Kurdish Peshmerga military recruits on Sunday in a disputed region of northern Iraq where Baghdad and autonomous Kurdistan are caught up in a military stand-off.
Baghdad's Arab-led central government and the Kurdistan region are embroiled in a long-running dispute over oil and land and both dispatched troops last month to the so-called "Disputed Territories" over which both claim jurisdiction.
No one claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing in the ethnically mixed town of Jalawla, 115 km (70 miles), northeast of Baghdad, near a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party (PUK) office when Kurds were being recruited into Peshmerga forces.
"We were waiting to be recruited in the Peshmerga and then there was a big sound of an explosion and a shock wave," said Cerwan Mohammed Ameen, 26, one of 12 wounded by the blast.
"I woke up later to find myself in the hospital and I saw my friends near me," said Ameen, who had burn wounds on his legs.
The military build-up, the second major troop escalation inside Iraq since U.S. troops left a year ago, threatens to ignite tensions in the disputed areas and risks fracturing the country's fragile federal unity.
Kurdistan has run its own government and armed forces since 1991 and is generally more secure and stable than other parts of Iraq. The Kurdish region has clashed with Baghdad by signing oil agreements with companies like Exxon Mobil that the central government dismisses as illegal.
Violence in Iraq has ebbed since the sectarian violence a few years ago but bombings and shootings still occur daily.
(Reporting by Baghdad newsroom; Writing by Aseel Kami; Editing by Patrick Markey and Sonya Hepinstall)