UPDATE 6-Car bomb kills three outside US consulate in Iraq’s Kurdish capital – Reuters

* Islamic State claims responsibility for blast

* No U.S. personnel hurt, State Department says

* Kurds allied with Washington against insurgency

(Recasts first paragraph)

By Isabel Coles

ERBIL, April 17 (Reuters) – A car bombing claimed by the
Islamic State killed three people on Friday outside the U.S.
consulate in Erbil, in a relatively rare attack in the capital
of Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

No U.S. personnel were hurt in the blast, according to the
U.S. State Department, which said a “vehicle-borne improvised
explosive device” exploded right outside the entrance to the
heavily fortified compound.

Iraq’s Kurdish region is an important partner for the
U.S.-led coalition in its campaign to “degrade and destroy” the
Islamic State group, which overran large parts of Iraq last
summer and threatened to reach Erbil.

A Reuters witness heard the blast, which was followed by
gunfire and a column of black smoke high above the Ankawa
district, a predominantly Christian neighbourhood packed with
cafes popular with foreigners.

“It seems the consulate was the target,” Nihad Qoja, the
mayor of Erbil’s city centre, told Reuters.

The head of security for Ankawa said three people were
killed and 14 wounded.

“They (Islamic State) want to show they are present,”
Sherzad Farmand said.

Islamic State also claimed responsibility for two car
bombings in the Baghdad that killed at least 27 people on

“The fighters of the Islamic State detonated two car bombs
in the heart of the Iraqi capital this evening and a third in
Erbil,” the group said via its news agency.

U.S. officials said they found the Islamic State claim of
responsibility for the Erbil consulate attack credible. “We have
no reason to doubt their claim of responsibility,” a U.S.
counterterrorism official told Reuters.

Such attacks are relatively rare in Kurdistan, which has
managed to insulate itself from the worst of the violence
afflicting the rest of Iraq.

The last major attack in Erbil, also claimed by Islamic
State, was in November, when a suicide car bomber blew himself
up outside the governor’s office, killing five.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing
by Robin Pomeroy and Howard Goller)