Twin blasts in Iraq kill 21, wound dozens

BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide attacker blew himself up in a market south of the capital Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 21 people while another bomb in a nearby city wounded five others, police and medical officials said.

Explosions are common in Iraq and have killed hundreds of people this year alone. The blasts have been ongoing as government forces and their allies have scored victories against the Islamic State group that has claimed responsibility for much of the attacks.

The officials said the Friday morning blast in a market in the village of Musayyib killed 21 and wounded 30. The medical officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

"It was a very ugly incident," said Falah Khafaji, head of the security committee in the southern province of Babil where Musayyib is located. He added that the attack occurred as people were out shopping during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

The blast came hours after a bomb exploded in the Shiite holy city of Karbala near Mussayyib, wounding five people.

Shortly after the two blasts occurred, the IS-linked Aamaq news agency said the group was behind both attacks. It said both were carried out by suicide attackers wearing explosive vests.

Musayyib and Karbala are predominantly Shiite Muslim, a sect that IS reviles and considers heretics.

Also Friday, the Iraqi government criticized the announcement by the Kurdish autonomous government that it will hold a referendum on independence in September.

Earlier this week, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, announced plans for a referendum on Sept. 25 on whether to secede from Iraq.

The vote would be held in three governorates that make up the Kurdish region and in the areas that are disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments.

In Baghdad's first comment on the Kurdish move, government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said Friday the Kurds cannot make such a move alone.

Al-Hadithi says: "All Iraqis must have a say in defining the future of their nation. No single party can determine the future of Iraq in isolation from the other. Any decision on this issue must be taken in consultation with other parties and safeguard national consensus."

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also commented on the announcement, saying the Iraqi Kurd plans to hold a referendum on independence was an "irresponsible" decision that will add to the region's problems.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Yildirim reiterated Turkey's support for Iraq's territorial integrity.

Yildirim said: "There are sufficient problem areas in our region and we don't think it is right to create new problem areas."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry also criticized the move earlier, calling it a "grave mistake."