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New York Times

BAGHDAD - Three explosions aimed at Iraqi security forces ripped through the divided northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday morning, killing at least 29 people, most of them police officers, and wounding scores more.

The attackers used a now familiar tactic, detonating successive explosions so those who rush to the scene of the first blast are hurt. The initial blast was caused by a small improvised explosive device attached to a sedan in a parking lot outside the local police headquarters. After the police arrived, a larger car bomb went off, killing 26 officers and three civilians.

"I didn't feel anything," said Kaweh Hama Rashid, a police officer wounded in the second blast. "I just fell to the ground, and blood covered me. I saw all of my friends dying and wounded in front of my eyes."

About 30 minutes later, a third car bomb exploded near the provincial government headquarters, wounding about 13 people, including Kirkuk's head of criminal investigation, the target of the explosion, security officials said.

The attacks came at a fragile moment for Kirkuk. Three ethnic groups are grappling for control of the area and its rich oil reserves. The fight for primacy in Kirkuk among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens is one of the most potentially volatile issues facing Iraq as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw over the next six months.

"Kirkuk is witnessing a deterioration in the security situation," said Hassan Toran, a Turkmen and head of the provincial council. "It's possible the attacks will increase if American troops leave Iraq."

Security officials said at least 105 people were wounded in the blasts and that victims with critical burns were ferried to more advanced hospitals one to two hours away.

Dozens of wounded police officers filled the hallways of Kirkuk Hospital, some laid out on blood-covered floors, as family members crowded the entrance. Doctors said they were overwhelmed by the flood of people with severe burns and shrapnel wounds and put out a call for blood donors. The U.S. military also dispatched a team of medical providers after receiving requests for help.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a team of investigators to the scene of the bombings and said the government would compensate the victims' families.