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Car bombing kills three at US consulate in Iraq

AFP - The scene outside the US conulate in Erbil after the explosion

A car bomb killed three people on Friday outside the US consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, a key ally of Washington in the war against the Islamic State group (IS).

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The Islamist group, which is waging a war to carve out a Caliphate across northern Iraq and Syria, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

No US personnel were hurt in the blast, according to the US State Department, which said a “vehicle-borne improvised explosive device” exploded right outside the entrance to the heavily fortified compound.

Kurdistan is an important partner for the US-led coalition in its campaign to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State group, which overran large parts of Iraq last summer and threatened to reach Erbil.

A Reuters witness heard the blast, which was followed by gunfire and a column of black smoke high above the Ankawa district, a predominantly Christian neighbourhood packed with cafes popular with foreigners.

“It seems the consulate was the target,” Nihad Qoja, the mayor of Erbil’s city centre, told Reuters.

Ankawa head of security Sherzad Farmand said three people were killed and 14 wounded in the attack, adding that “they (IS) want to show they are present” in the predominantly Kurdish city.

The IS group also claimed responsibility for two car bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 27 people on Friday.

“The fighters of the Islamic State detonated two car bombs in the heart of the Iraqi capital this evening and a third in Erbil,” the group said via its news agency.

US officials said they found the IS claim of responsibility for the Erbil consulate attack credible.

“We have no reason to doubt their claim of responsibility,” a US counterterrorism official told Reuters.

Such attacks are relatively rare in Kurdistan, which has managed to insulate itself from the worst of the violence afflicting the rest of Iraq.

The last major attack in Erbil, also claimed by the IS group, was in November, when a suicide car bomber blew himself up outside the governor’s office, killing five.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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