BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – A suicide bomber strapped with explosives killed up to 20 people waiting outside a police recruiting center in Iraq”s capital Saturday, authorities said.
The bomber wore a belt packed with explosives and blew himself up outside the recruiting center in west Baghdad”s Yarmouk neighborhood, killing 20, said police Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman. Most of the victims were recruits, he said.
The attack pushed the death toll to more than 1,400 people killed since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-led government on April 28.
Sunni Muslims form the backbone of a violent insurgency bent on destabilizing the government and sparking civil war. Sunnis, who dominated Iraq for decades, lost power when Saddam Hussein, their last patron and a Sunni, was ousted. Their boycott of January”s historic elections further sidelined them.
The blast occurred at about 9 a.m. Saturday, police said.
There were conflicting reports on the death toll, though the Interior Ministry runs the recruiting center. Local police and hospital officials reported 17 dead and 21 wounded while the U.S. military said at least 12 were killed.
"A terrorist reportedly walked into the crowd and detonated his vest, which was packed with ball bearings," according to a U.S. military statement.
Heavily-armed police arrived to the scene in white pickup trucks, firing warning shots to clear the area. Emergency workers carted away bodies on stretchers.
Insurgents bent on destabilizing Iraq”s government frequently target security forces and recruiting centers. Blast walls usually surround important government buildings, but long lines that form outside expose people to attacks.
The daily carnage has left Baghdad”s residents disgusted.
On Saturday, gunmen killed a police officer during an ambush in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Lt. Col. Anwar Sheik Kabeer Sorchyee was shot by gunmen as he was driving to work in the city”s northeastern district, police said.
A mortar attack Friday sparked a fire that forced authorities to shut down a water plant, leaving millions of Baghdad residents with dry taps in 100-degree heat, Iraqi officials said.
Just a day earlier, the mayor of the capital threatened to quit because of mounting infrastructure problems — including a lack of clean drinking water.
The blaze Friday at a power station north of Baghdad cut off electricity to a water plant serving 65 percent of the capital, officials said. The fire halted all distribution from the waterworks, and project director Jassim Mohammed said repairs could take three days. Iraqi municipal officials said at least two mortar rounds struck the power station.
Also on Friday, an aide to Iraq”s most influential Shiite cleric was sprayed with machine-gun fire and killed in a drive-by shooting, while a suicide car bomb exploded near Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari”s party offices, killing one person.
Kamal Ezz al-Deen al-Ghuraifi, an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was shot as he left al-Doreen mosque in Baghdad after leading Friday prayers.