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Suicide attack on police station kills 36 in Iraq

BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber attacked a provincial police headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sunday morning, the police and the city’s civil defense director said, killing at least 36 people and wounding 105.

Three additional suicide attackers who attempted to enter the general directorate of Kirkuk police after the blast were killed by the police.

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Security forces cordoned off the site and closed government buildings and the main roads in Kirkuk as ambulances took the wounded to a hospital. The commander of the Kirkuk police was among those wounded and was taken to Erbil for treatment.

Nauzad Mohamed, a police officer who was wounded in the attack, said the bomber was ‘‘driving a police car and wearing a police uniform.’’

‘‘The explosion happened when we asked him to stop for a search,’’ Mohamed said. ‘‘Then everything collapsed. I can’t believe I survived.’’

After the blast, others attacked the police headquarters on foot.

Faris Mustafa, a police officer who also was wounded, said, ‘‘I saw the three suicide bombers running into the police building. They were throwing hand grenades at us. We opened fire on them and killed them immediately.’’

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Kirkuk’s governor blamed terrorist gangs seeking to destabilize the city, about 180 miles north of Baghdad.

In other recent attacks in the region, suspicion has fallen on Sunni insurgents, including Al Qaeda’s unit in Iraq. Al Qaeda and other militant groups have been exploiting ethnic tensions throughout northern Iraq.

Kurdish troops and Iraqi government security forces have been sharing responsibility for security in Kirkuk. Kurds want to incorporate it into their semi­autonomous region in northern Iraq, but ­Arabs and Turk­mens in the city oppose such a move.

The attack on Sunday was the third in recent weeks in the area.

Kirkuk has a mix of Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen, who are battling for control of the oil-producing area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.

The city is at the heart of the dispute between the Kurds, who have their own armed fighting force, and Iraq’s central government.

In a separate development Sunday, the Iraqi mobile phone company Asiacell sold a 25 percent stake to investors, raising close to $1.3 billion in one of the region’s largest share offers in years, the Associated Press reported.

The sale on the Iraq Stock Exchange was seen as a test of investor confidence in the country.

It could reassure international investors, many of whom remain wary of the risky Iraqi market, influenced by continued sectarian violence and political deadlock.

Asiacell had offered a quarter of its shares, or 67.5 billion, as part of licensing requirements.

The initial share price was set at 22 Iraqi dinars, or just under 2 cents.

With Asiacell’s share offer, the market capitalization of the ISX nearly doubled to about $9 billion, up from $4.7 billion, said Taha al-Rubaye, head of the stock exchange.

Foreign investors bought about two-thirds of the stock, said Shwan Taha, whose brokerage firm, Rabee Securities, organized the sale.

Regular trading of Asiacell stock is set to begin on Monday.

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