Middle East

Car bomb blast in Iraqi Kurdish city

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Media captionThe BBC's Nafiseh Kohnavard has been to the scene

A suicide car bomber has killed at least six people in the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Irbil, local media say.

The blast, accompanied by gunfire, was reported outside the governor's office, close to the historic citadel in the city centre.

Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi government forces have been battling an advance by Islamic State (IS) militants, but Irbil has largely avoided major attacks.

The oil city has a reputation as a safe base for foreigners.

It has also received thousands of refugees fleeing the IS advance this summer.

The bomb exploded just before midday local time (09:00 GMT) on Wednesday at the main checkpoint outside the governor's building, an official told AFP news agency.

Images from the scene showed burnt vehicles and a bloodstain on the pavement.

According to the local Rudaw TV channel, two of the dead were police officers.

The Iraqi Kurdish health ministry said 22 people were being treated for their injuries.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga units have been battling Islamic State in Iraq and in the Syrian town of Kobane

No group has said it carried out the attack.

Speaking to reporters after the blast, the governor of Irbil, Nawzad Hadi, linked the attack to the threat from terrorism in the region.

A Kurdish security body issued a statement saying the recent influx of refugees had provided a cover for terrorists, according to Reuters news agency.

BBC Persian's Jiyar Gol says the attack has revealed the vulnerability of the Kurdish security services.

Irbil is the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, which enjoys broad autonomy from the government in Baghdad.

Iraqi Kurdish forces, backed by US air strikes, have been trying to drive out IS militants from the territory they have seized in neighbouring provinces.