World News

Iraqi army arrest suspect in Kirkuk vehicle bombs

KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi army forces arrested a man on Saturday suspected of being behind two vehicle bombs in the northern city of Kirkuk that killed more than 100 people, an Iraqi army official said.

Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers seized Mehdi Saleh in the town of Hawija, 210 km (130 miles) north of Baghdad, the senior official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. He gave no further details.

A truck bomb planted outside a mosque in Kirkuk on June 20 killed 73 people, many of them crushed under the rubble of their flattened clay brick homes. Some 250 were wounded.

Then on June 30, hours after Iraq celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi towns and cities, a car bomb at a market in a Kurdish part of the city killed at least 32 people.

The official said Saleh was a suspect in both bombings.

Kirkuk, whose surrounding oil fields produce a fifth of Iraq’s oil, is volatile and hotly disputed between rival Kurd, Arab and Turkmen ethnic groups.

Some Iraqis fear the U.S. pullback to rural bases, the first step toward a full U.S. withdrawal by 2012 agreed under a bilateral security pact, leaves them more open to attack from insurgent groups.

The Iraqi government insists its own security forces are capable of handing any threats.

Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; Writing by Tim Cocks