A SUICIDE bomber blew himself up among a crowd of police recruits in the Iraqi city of Tikrit yesterday, killing 50 people and wounding 150.
The blast in the insurgency stronghold was the deadliest since an October 31 siege at a Baghdad church left 53 people dead, and was the first major attack since the formation of a new government on December 21.
The bomb site in the middle of Tikrit, the home town of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, 160km north of the Iraqi capital, was covered in pieces of flesh and pools of blood, with clothing and shoes scattered across the scene. Loudspeakers from the city mosques were calling on people to donate blood for the wounded.
The recruits, applying for 2000 new jobs that Iraq’s Interior Ministry recently approved for Salahuddin province, had been queuing to enter the centre since 6am, with the attacker detonating his payload at the entrance about 10.15am (6.15pm AEDT).
The attack starkly displayed the Iraqi forces’ failure to plug even the most obvious holes in their security as the US military prepares to withdraw from Iraq at the end of the year.
A recruit who survived the blast said they were frisked before they entered the station’s yard.
“We were waiting in the line to enter the police station yard after being searched when a powerful explosion threw me to the ground,” said Quteiba Muhsin, whose legs were broken.
Salahuddin councillor Abdullah Jabara accused al-Qa’ida of being behind the attack.
“The aim of this terrorist attack carried out by al-Qa’ida operatives is to shake the security in the province and to bring back instability to Tikrit,” he said. “The security forces shoulder responsibility for this tragedy.”
Mr Jabara said insurgents successfully exploited “inefficiencies” and “breaches” in security measures, calling it “an indication that the terrorists are still on the job and all security forces should be on high alert all the time”.
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 at the end of August.
While the US military still has about 50,000 soldiers in the country, they are mostly involved with training and advising their Iraqi counterparts, and must withdraw completely by the end of the year.
Violence declined substantially since its peak in 2006 and 2007. 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.