22 Jun 2009

Death toll from truck bombing at 73

1:05 pm on 22 June 2009

The death toll from a truck bomb near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk has risen to 73.

The bomber struck near a mosque in Taza Kharmatu, a predominantly Shi'ite Turkmen town, at 1pm on Saturday.

Kirkuk's health director said 200 people were caught in the explosion and some were in a critical condition.

Kirkuk deputy police captain Firhan Rahman said the toll had risen from 67, and that the blast flattened 45 homes.

Casualties are expected to rise as more people are pulled from the rubble.

The attack came just over a week ahead of a deadline for United States troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities, towns and villages.

Almost all US soldiers will leave urban centres by 30 June under a bilateral security pact signed last year and the entire force that invaded the country in 2003 must be gone by 2012.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told Iraqis not to lose faith if the pull-back sparked more attacks, reiterating a warning that insurgents were likely to try to take advantage of the withdrawal to launch more assaults.