KIRKUK….The New York Times account of the bombing in Kirkuk on Monday is devastating:
Just after 11 a.m., a suicide bomber blew herself up, killing at least 17 demonstrators and wounding 47 others, according to Iraqi security officials.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore the hallmarks of Sunni Arab extremists. Nonetheless, many in the crowd blamed Turkmen extremists for the attack, and within minutes a mob of enraged Kurds began attacking Turkmen political offices and setting their buildings ablaze.
….One element fueling the Kurds’ rampage was the widespread belief that Turkmens had fired on Kurdish demonstrators dashing away from the bomb blast.
….Farouk Abdullah, a senior Turkmen politician, said that offices of every Turkmen party had been attacked and that Kurdish rioters had destroyed a number of other Turkmen buildings. “We don’t know why they attacked us,” he said. “We did not have anything to do with the explosion.”
By the end of the day, the riot and violence by Kurds against Turkmens had become one of the most severe ethnic skirmishes in Kirkuk since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The city has long been considered a tinderbox because of its volatile mix of Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs.
The suicide bombing was bad enough on its own. The fact that it immediately led to a Kurdish rampage is worse. Everyone who follows Iraqi politics has been waiting on pins and needles for years for Kirkuk to erupt, and pretty much everyone seems to think that this kind of thing could be all it takes to turn Kirkuk’s long-simmering ethnic feuds into all-out war. So far it hasn’t, though, and the good news is that the Sunni extremists who were probably responsible for this attack are likely to have a limited supply of female suicide bombers. That may be a thin reed, but at least it’s a reed.