Blast kills 25 of Talabani supporters in eastern Iraq

Kurds celebrated the release of a video purportedly showing the ailing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani casting his vote in Germany. (Al Arabiya)

A suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday amid a group of supporters of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, killing 25 people and wounding 30 others, security and medical officials said.

The victims had gathered in the mostly-Kurdish town of Khanaqin to celebrate the release of a video purportedly showing the ailing Talabani, a Kurdish leader, casting his vote in Germany, where he is receiving treatment for a stroke, ahead of national parliamentary elections on Wednesday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were updating an earlier toll.

Khanaqin lies within a swathe of disputed territory that Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region wants to incorporate over the objections of Baghdad.

Militants frequently capitalize on poor communication between Kurdish and Arab security forces in the disputed areas to carry out attacks.

Khanaqin and nearby Saadiyah have previously been targeted by attacks.

Sulaimaniyah jubilant over video

Meanwhile, Sulaimaniyah, a center of support to Talabani, erupted in celebration on Monday the video which apparently showed him casting his vote for upcoming polls.

The video of Talabani shows him seated, then later cuts to a ballot being placed in a box before returning to show the president raising a finger stained with ink used to identify those who have voted, to applause of people standing around him.

The authenticity of the video, which was broadcast on a Kurdish TV channel, could not be independently confirmed, and the date it was shot was unclear, though out-of-country voting for Iraqi parliamentary polls began on Sunday and continued through Monday.

Car horns blared, people shouted and waved flags of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party while hanging out of car windows, and some fired off celebratory gunshots in Sulaimaniyah, located in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

One man shot a pistol through the open sunroof of his SUV, while a taxi driver held a Kalashnikov assault rifle out the window, firing as he drove past a PUK office where a crowd of revelers had gathered, according to an AFP journalist.

Some security personnel appeared to have confiscated one man's Kalashnikov, hustling him away.

But another security forces member fired a pistol out the window of a truck, and a young man walked down one main street carrying a Kalashnikov with no one moving to stop him.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic stretched out of sight on both sides of the street, with many of the cars flying green PUK flags, some bearing Talabani's image.

Talabani, who is affectionately known as Mam (Uncle) Jalal, has been convalescing in Germany since late 2012 after suffering a stroke.

His office has released periodic assurances that Talabani is recovering, and some photos of the president.

But major questions remain unanswered on the actual state of his health, and whether or not he will be able to resume his office again.

Talabani, a Kurd, has been a key mediator of the myriad disputes between Iraq’s various religious and ethnic groups, a role that has since gone unfilled.

The president’s prolonged absence has also affected his party, which fell to third behind the opposition Goran movement in Kurdish parliamentary polls last year.

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Last Update: 20:09 KSA 23:09 - GMT 20:09
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