KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - The death toll from Iraq’s deadliest bombing in more than a year rose to 73, police said on Sunday, a day after a suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives outside a mosque in the north of the country.
More than half of the victims were pulled from the rubble and dust of around 70 clay brick homes that were flattened in the explosion near the northern city of Kirkuk, said Brigadier General Najeh Mohammed, the local head of civil defense.
“We expect that there are still some dead bodies under the rubble. But the chances are less than before,” said Mohammed.
A survivor of the powerful explosion, Askar Zaman, said 10 of his relatives were killed, including sons and grandsons. Another, Hussein Azab, said he lost eight members of his family.
Black flags and banners of mourning fluttered from poles all over the Shi’ite Muslim village of Taza and the victims were swiftly buried in the same part of the local cemetery.
Major-General Turhan Abdul Rahman, deputy chief commander of police in Kirkuk province, said the death toll from Saturday’s blast had climbed to 73, making it the deadliest attack in Iraq since female suicide bombers killed 99 people in a Baghdad pet market in February last year.
Around 200 people were wounded in the Kirkuk attack.
While overall violence has fallen significantly since the sectarian war and insurgency triggered by the 2003 U.S. invasion peaked in 2006/07, devastatingly high death tolls from individual bombings remain stubbornly common.
Sixty people were killed by two female suicide bombers outside the Shi’ite Iman Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad this April, and 50 died in a suicide bomb blast in a restaurant near Kirkuk in December.
Kirkuk is viewed as a potential flashpoint between Iraq’s Shi’ite Arab-led central government and Kurds who view it as their ancestral homeland and want it included in their semi-autonomous northern enclave.
Writing by Mohammed Abbas and Michael Christie