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Suicide attack on Iraqi Army frustrates Iraqi hopes for security

A suicide attack at an Iraqi Army recruitment center killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 120. Shopkeepers in the neighborhood blamed lack of political progress and called promises of security 'empty.'

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent / August 17, 2010

Iraqi security forces inspect the scene of a suicide attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday. A suicide bomber blew himself up among hundreds of army recruits who had gathered near a military headquarters, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 120.

Hadi Mizban/AP



A suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his legs at an Iraqi Army recruiting center early Tuesday, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 120, including an Iraqi general, in one of the worst attacks this year.

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Iraqi officers on the scene said the bomber posed as a recruit along with hundreds of young men lined up for the chance to enlist in a country where 1 in 3 people are jobless. An officer involved in cordon security said the bomber had gone through a security check and was handing his identification to officers around the Iraqi general when he detonated the explosives.

“This is the new method – they booby trap the legs,” said another senior Army officer who asked not to be identified by name. Iraqi security forces generally check for suicide vests or belts during pat-downs.

The early morning attack, at a main Army recruiting center in east Baghdad, took place the day after one of the main Iraqi political blocs suspended talks on forming a coalition government and as soldiers from the last US combat brigade head out of the country to comply with President Obama’s Sept. 1 deadline for combat forces to be out of Iraq.

Army officers said it had the signature of Al Qaeda in Iraq. But Iraqis also blame the violence on the political vacuum. One of the major Iraqi factions, Iraqiya, announced that it was suspending talks aimed at forming a coalition government after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki referred to the group as “Sunni-based,” which was taken as a sectarian smear. Though Iraqiya is mostly supported by Sunnis, it considers itself nonsectarian and its leader, Ayad Allawi, is a secular Shiite.

The wrangling has threatened to fuel sectarian tensions – Mr. Maliki's Shiite coalition has maintained that only a religious Shiite can be prime minister, while Mr. Allawi's coalition has warned of the need to give Sunnis significant leadership posts to avoid such strife.

“The enemies of Iraq are many and the enemies of freedom are many,” said the senior Iraqi Army officer. “Their aim is to spread chaos.”

Did he have accomplices?

The senior officer said they believed the bomber had accomplices who helped him stow a pair of pants with explosives attached near the site and put them on in addition to the pants he was wearing. Some of the potential recruits had lined up before dawn.

A cellphone video given to the Monitor showed the torso of what Army officers said was the suicide bomber – a young man wearing a red T-shirt who looked to be in his late teens or early 20s.

While one Army officer said the Iraqi brigadier general had been seriously injured, another said he had died of his wounds.

On the streets near where the attack took place, in the teeming Bab al-Muatham neighborhood, Iraqi soldiers cordoned off the area while their intelligence officers went door to door questioning residents. US forensics experts appeared briefly after the explosion to help collect fingerprints and other forensic evidence.