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BAQUBA, Iraq, Feb 6, 2009 – At least 12 people were killed in a suicide attack on a restaurant in the Iraqi province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, on Thursday, local officials told AFP.
The attacker struck in Khanaqin, a mainly Kurdish town near the Iranian border.
“Twelve people were killed and about 11 wounded in the suicide attack against the restaurant,” an official based at security force headquarters in the province of Diyala, told AFP, updating an earlier police toll.
Yahya Ibrahim, a 35-year-old mechanic, was among those injured.
“I was at the back of the restaurant when suddenly the explosion happened at the entrance,” he told AFP.
“Everything around was destroyed,” he said, saying that most of the casualties were shopkeepers from a local market.
The town’s mayor Mohammed Othman said that all of the 12 dead from the afternoon bombing were men.
Khanaqin holds sizeable oil reserves and longstanding Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the town in their northern autonomous region have sparked ethnic tensions with Arabs in the province.
The road from Khanaqin to the capital is regarded as one of the most dangerous in Iraq. Despite regular checkpoints manned by the army and police, it has been the target of frequent attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda.
Khanaqin itself has no Iraqi forces. The Iraqi flag is flown by the Kurdish peshmerga fighters alongside their own flags.
All government buildings fly the Kurdish flag. The Kurdish tricolour — red, green and white, with a rising star in the middle — is also seen outside most homes along the highway.