Nine people were killed in northern Iraq Wednesday as part of a a coordinated, massive attack on a shopping mall, according to Agence France-Presse reports from Thursday.
Wednesday's attack, which involved carb bombs and militant gunmen, represents another fatal episode of violence in the country that has left more than 6,200 dead this year alone.
According to the report, Jawaher Mall in Iraq's ethnically diverse-and divided-city of Kirkuk, home to Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, was attacked by militants Wednesday afternoon, as gunmen raced into the mall and took shoppers hostage. The militants then went onto the roof of the five-story complex and began to shoot at security personnel who attempted to enter the mall.
A car bomb simultaneously detonated near the mall around 1:30 pm local time, leading to additional clashes between militants and security officials from the nearby police branch.
Security officials were able to free 11 hostages from the mall Wednesday.
According to the report, two militants who are strapped with bombs are still at large. Officials have blamed the attack on Al Qaeda, but the government has come under serious scrutiny for "not doing enough to address the concerns of Iraq's disaffected Sunni Arab minority."
At least six people have been killed from the attack and more than 70 have been wounded, according to government sources. Four among the dead were security officials.
Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit were also attacks Wednesday, leaving three more dead.
Violence has erupted dramatically throughout the country over the past year, particularly since Shiite-led security forces cracked down on a Sunni protest camp north of the capital in April. Iraq's Sunni minority has been protesting what they see as "discrimination at the hands of the Shiite-led [government]." The government in response has raised salaries of Sunni anti-Al Qaeda security officers and has freed some prominent Sunni prisoners, but daily attacks and sectarian tensions have continued.
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