BAGHDAD – A car bomb Sunday ripped through a Kirkuk bus terminal that serves travelers to Iraq's Kurdish region, killing eight people and wounding 26, according to a police spokesman.
Police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said the explosion caused a huge fire and set 15 cars ablaze. The terminal is located in a mainly Kurdish area of Kirkuk, an oil rich city which Iraq's Kurds want to annex to their self-rule region in the north of the country.
The city's Arab and Turkomen residents dispute the Kurdish claim.
Meanwhile, in the turbulent city of Basra, gunmen sprayed a car carrying five bodyguards of the head of the local Sunni Endowments department, killing one of them and injuring the rest, police said.
Also in Basra, a mainly Shiite city 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, a local official of the election commission was gunned down late Saturday in front of his house.
The police officials who reported both attacks spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. They did not give a motive for the attacks.
But while the attack on the bodyguards may have had a sectarian motive — the Sunni Endowment is a state agency that looks after the sect's mosques and seminaries — the second one could have been linked to the widening fight among rival Shiite groups vying for control of the city in the wake of the redeployment outside Basra of British troops.
The fate of the city will be decided when local elections are held, but the national parliament in Baghdad must first pass a legislation creating a mechanism for provincial elections in all 18 provinces of the nation.
The struggle for power in Basra is part of a wider fight by Shiite parties to dominate the mainly Shiite south, with its vast oil wealth and the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, visited by millions every year.
News of the attacks in Basra came as a public tussle between Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the country's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, grew more intense.
Al-Hashemi's office said in a statement Sunday that he asked President Jalal Talabani to push parliament to pardon security detainees who aren't what he called "dangerous elements" that would rejoin the insurgency.
The request to Talabani and Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the other vice president, is the latest move in a vigorous campaign by al-Hashemi to win the release of thousands of detainees held in Iraqi and U.S.-run detention facilities without charge. He appeared to be trying to bypass al-Maliki.
Nearly 90 percent of the estimated 25,000 Iraqis held by the U.S. military are believed to be members of the once-dominant Sunni Arab minority, a fact that Sunni politicians say is evidence of sectarian policies of the Shiite-dominated government.
Al-Hashemi's request was certain to further ruffle al-Maliki.
The al-Hashemi statement said he had written to Talabani, a Kurd, and Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the Shiite vice president, that pardon legislation must be coupled with "suitable regulations ensuring that no dangerous elements that will likely resume subversive activities are released."
Meanwhile in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, an Iraqi army patrol exchanged fire with gunmen in the western part of the city, killing two of them, an Iraqi army officer said on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.
In Baquoba, provincial capital of Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, two Sunni Arab men where killed Sunday when a bomb planted outside their house went off in the city western Gatoun neighborhood, police said.
Earlier in a village outside Baqouba, militants from Al-Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped 10 villagers after they clashed with insurgents from a rival group, according to a police officer there.
Four Al Qaeda militants were wounded in the clashes in the Abdul-Hamid village, about 11 kilometers (seven miles) north of Baqouba, said the officer.
U.S. forces have dealt severe blows to Al-Qaeda in Iraq militants in Diyala in recent months, but the terror network continues to show resilience in the province, which was once a bastion for its fighters. Local tribal chiefs have turned up the heat on Al-Qaeda by joining U.S. and Iraqi forces in the fight against Al-Qaeda in Diyala, the vast Anbar province to the west of Baghdad and in neighborhoods of the capital where it had maintained a heavy presence.
Rear Adm. Greg Smith, a U.S. military spokesman, told a Sunday news briefing in Baghdad that more than 67,000 Iraqis have so far joined the ranks of "concerned citizens," U.S. military parlance for Sunni Arab groups who have joined them in the fight against Al Qaeda.