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Iraq Transition

Baghdad suicide bomber targets police recruits

Story Highlights

• Suicide bomber joins line of police recruits, then blows himself up, police say
• Police, army recruitment centers are frequent targets for bombs
• Building Iraqi police, army is key to eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber killed 15 people, mostly police recruits, outside an Iraqi army base west of Baghdad on Saturday in a fresh attack on volunteers for the U.S.-trained local security forces.

Police and an army source said the bomber detonated his explosive-packed vest in a queue of recruits lining up for jobs near Abu Ghraib prison, 20 miles (30 km) west of the capital.

"The bomber got in the line and blew himself up," the army source said. Police said the blast killed 15 and wounded 22. Most of the victims were recruits.

Bombers frequently target Iraqi police and army recruitment centers, which are key to building Iraq's security forces and thus paving the way for the eventual withdrawal of the 150,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

Last month, a female suicide bomber killed 17 Iraqi police recruits in the town of Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad.

A U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad has reduced the number of sectarian killings there, but insurgents have stepped up attacks outside the capital, where U.S. commanders believe militants have regrouped.

Under the Baghdad plan, President Bush is sending an additional 30,000 troops mostly to the capital and Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is engaged in a fierce power struggle with local Sunni tribes in Anbar and has stepped up attacks after tribesmen began recruiting locals in a U.S.-backed campaign to expel the Sunni militant group from the province.

Earlier this week, the U.S. military killed Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, whom it identified as the "senior minister of information" for al Qaeda in Iraq, and two other senior al Qaeda associates in an operation north of Baghdad.

On Friday, al Qaeda in Iraq released an audio tape purportedly of its leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who the Iraqi Interior Ministry said was killed in internecine fighting with fellow militants this week.

The authenticity of the tape, posted on a Web site used by Islamists, could not be authenticated and it was not known when it was recorded.

In the 21-minute tape, al-Masri said reports of infighting were "lies and fabrications" and criticized the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party in parliament, for participating in the Shiite-led government.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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