Updated February 4:
Kurdish parties in northern Iraq later denied news reports claiming that Turkey was responsible for the double suicide attacks. In a joint statement, the KDP and the PUK, whose offices were attacked, conveyed sincere appreciation for the offer to treat the injured in Turkey. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Turkey has never been involved in such incidents – not since the beginning of the Republic, not during the Ottoman era and not now.”
Two huge bombs were detonated Sunday, February 1, at the very moment that Iraq’s Kurds joined their leaders for a mass celebration at the headquarters of their two parties in the north Iraqi town of Arbil. The crowds had gathered to mark the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice and the passing of their archenemy Saddam Hussein.
The carnage was unimaginable, the worst terrorist assault ever seen in post-war Iraq. The death toll rose fast towards 70 with more than 200 injured. Hospitals recalled staff from their holidays and US helicopters rushed in medical assistance. The extent of the bloodshed and damage indicated strongly that vehicles packed with explosives outside the buildings must have backed up the suicide killers within.
According to debkafile‘s sources in Kurdistan and Washington, PUK leader Talal Jalabani talking later to senior US officials – believed to include visiting US Pentagon second-in-command Paul Wolfowitz – bluntly accused Turkish intelligence of orchestrating the massacre with the aim of wiping out the entire Iraqi Kurdish leadership at a single stroke.
Kurdish PM Baram Salah repeated the allegation during a visit to White House that day.
Kurdish sources declared the Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam lacked the resources and capabilities for mounting an operation of such magnitude and precision. It was clearly the work of a professional intelligence agency, who knew the two Kurdish heads Masoud Barzani, leader of the KDP and Jalal Talabani, head of the PUK, were to greet their followers at their respective headquarters in Arbil, along with the entire Iraqi Kurdish political and military leadership.
Talabani smelled a rat at the last minute and went into hiding. Barzani is in deep shock.
Among the dead are Sami Abdul Rahman, Dep. PM of the Kurdish region and his two sons, and Medhi Khoshnau, Dep. Governor of Arbil Province.
Turkish prime minister Tayyep Erdogan and foreign minister Abdullah Gul have just ended four days of talks in Washington at which they voiced concern over the generous measure of autonomy Iraq’s Kurds had been promised as America’s primary allies in the new Iraq. debkafile‘s sources report that they were not satisfied with the replies they received from President George W. Bush. Neither were they happy when secretary of state Colin Powell told them that the Kurdistan problem would be resolved in negotiations between the future sovereign government in Baghdad and Kurdish leaders.
The American responses were seen by Turkish leaders as leading inevitably to near-Kurdish independence, creating a model in Iraq that threatened to inflame Turkey’s own Kurdish minority.
Updated February 4: