Iraq blast: Suicide bomb kills 52 police recruits

The blast was the deadliest to hit Iraq since an Oct 31 siege at a Baghdad church that left 53 dead.

Updated: Jan 19, 2011, 00:37 AM IST

Tikrit: A suicide bomber blew himself up
among a crowd of police recruits in the Iraqi city of Tikrit
on Tuesday, killing 52 people and wounding 150, an interior
ministry official said.

The blast was the deadliest to hit Iraq since an
October 31 siege at a Baghdad church left 53 people dead, and
was the first major attack in the country since the formation
of a new government on December 21.

"Fifty people were killed and 150 wounded by a suicide
bomber at a police recruitment centre in Tikrit," the official
said in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"A suicide attacker blew himself up at a police
recruitment centre in the middle of Tikrit this morning," a
police officer in the city said, also speaking on condition of
anonymity.

Among the dead were recruits and policemen, he said,
without giving details.

A journalist said the bomb site in the middle of
Tikrit, the former hometown of now-executed dictator Saddam
Hussein, 160 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital, was
covered in torn off flesh and pools of blood, with pieces of
clothing and shoes scattered across the scene.

Policemen and soldiers had cordoned off the blast site
and several ambulances were rushing wounded people to a nearby
hospital.

Witnesses, who declined to be identified, said the
recruits had been queuing to enter the centre since 6:00 am,
with the attacker detonating his payload at the entrance to
the site at around 10:15 am (01245 IST).

The death toll was the highest from a single attack
since Al-Qaeda insurgents stormed a Baghdad church on October
31 with the ensuing siege leading to the deaths of 44
worshippers, two priests and seven security force members.

It was also the first major strike in Iraq since Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki named a new cabinet on December 21,
ending nine months of stalemate after March 7 elections.

Insurgents have targeted Iraqi security recruitment
centres in the past. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a
crowded army recruitment centre in Baghdad on August 17,
killing 59 people and wounding 125.

Iraq`s security forces are now solely responsible for
the country`s security, with the US having declared a formal
end to combat operations in the country at the end of August.

While the US military still has around 50,000 soldiers
stationed in the country, they are tasked mostly with training
and advising their Iraqi counterparts, and must withdraw
completely by the end of the year.

Violence across Iraq has declined substantially since
its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. The
total death toll for last month was the lowest since November
2009 and marked the fifth month in a row in which the death
toll has been lower than the previous month.

Bureau Report