Iraqi Kurdish capital hit by blasts

Explosions hit the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Sunday, an AFP correspondent reported, a rare event in an area usually spared violence plaguing the rest of the country.

The journalist heard three blasts in Arbil, and heavy gunfire. Smoke could be seen rising in the air, and a number of ambulances raced to the scene.

A high-ranking security official said four car bombs exploded near the headquarters of the Iraqi Kurds' asayesh security services in Arbil, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

While much of Iraq is plagued by near-daily violence that kills hundreds of people each month, the three-province Kurdistan region in the country's north is largely spared the deadly unrest.

The blasts came a day after results were announced for the region's parliamentary elections, which saw an opposition movement in second place ahead of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's party.

Iraqi Kurdistan enjoys a high level of autonomy from Baghdad, and the regional parliament has passed laws on a wide range of issues.

Kurdistan also operates its own security forces and visa regime.