Bombing hits Iraq's Erbil as Barzani slams West’s insufficient arm supply

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Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives blew himself up in the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region on Wednesday, killing at least five people in the first big attack there in more than a year.

Mayor Nihad Latif Koja told Reuters the assailant had detonated himself as he tried to enter the governor's compound, which is protected by blast walls, in the center of the usually secure northern city of Erbil just before noon.

Footage from the scene in Erbil after the mid-morning attack showed charred vehicles and blood smeared on the cobblestones outside the governor's office. Windows on the opposite side of the street had been shattered by the force of the blast.

A witness interviewed live on Kurdistan TV said two policemen and two civilians had been killed in the explosion.

The last major attack in Erbil was on September 29, 2013 when militants launched a coordinated suicide and car bomb attack on the headquarters of the Asayesh security forces in the city, killing seven people and wounding more than 60. Another blast took place in August, but there were no casualties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Erbil attack, but suicide bombings are usually carried out by extremist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS, which declared a "caliphate" over territory it seized in Iraq and Syria, is described as the world's wealthiest "terror" group, earning $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone, in addition to $429 million it has looted from Mosul’s central bank.

The group seized the second city of Mosul and swept through the country's heartland in June in matter of days, driving Iraq's army - the recipient of $25 billion in US training and funding since the 2003 invasion - to collapse.

In early August, Kurdish peshmerga forces joined the battle against ISIS after the group targeted minority groups, took control of the country's largest dam and moved within striking distance of Erbil, making the city a more prominent target for militants.

Since then, the region’s peshmerga regained ground from ISIS, emerging as the West's most trusted and effective partner on the ground in their war against the extremist militants, especially given that many expatriates, including oil industry and aid workers are based in the Kurdish capital.

However, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, accused Western countries on Wednesday of not providing enough heavy weapons to help peshmerga forces deliver a "decisive blow" against ISIS militants.

Western countries not providing enough weapons to fight ISIS

France, Britain, Germany and others have also begun arming and training Iraqi Kurds, who they see as a vital bulwark against further ISIS advances.

"We'd like to thank the members of the (US-led) coalition for the support they have provided, but ... all the support we have received so far is not up to the level that is needed," Barzani told France 24 news channel in an interview aired on Wednesday.

"The heavy weapons systems that we need, especially in terms of quality and quantity, for example the APCs (armored personnel carriers), the helicopters, the artillery we need for a decisive war against them (ISIS) – we have not received these types of weapons," he said.

France says it has provided machine guns and munitions and has promised to give "sophisticated" weapons to Iraqi Kurds. Some 200 French special forces are also on the ground training Iraqi Kurds.

Germany has said it is sending weapons to equip 4,000 Kurdish fighters, including machine guns, grenades, anti-tank systems and armored vehicles. Britain has said it will provide anti-tank weapons, night-vision goggles, radar and body armor.

However, Barzani said the pledges were not sufficient.

"Is there a ceiling on the heavy weapons systems that we should receive in terms of the quantity and quality? The answer is not very clear to us," he said.

The US is due to train Syrian-Kurdish fighters from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) fighters in Iraq's Kurdish region, a report said Saturday.

The PYD are fighting in Kobane, the flashpoint Syrian town bordering Turkey, and some 150 Iraqi peshmerga fighters are helping them repel an ISIS onslaught in the town.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama, who was elected in 2008 largely due to his promises to exit Middle Eastern military entanglements, - especially in Iraq - and avoiding new ones, announced plans last week to double the number of American troops in Iraq, approving an additional 1,500 forces that will include “trainers and advisers” to help Iraqi forces counter ISIS.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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