Suicide bomber kills 35 at Iraqi police centre

A suicide bomber killed 35 people at an Iraqi police recruiting centre in Baghdad on Sunday, in the latest attack that undermines United States and Iraqi government efforts to bolster the country’s security forces.

Interior Ministry sources said 56 people were also wounded in the attack after a bomber wearing an explosive-laden vest walked into the recruiting centre for police commandos.

Police at the hospital where casualties were taken said 40 people were wounded.

Sunni Arab insurgents frequently attack recruiting centres for Iraq’s fledgling security forces, which are a key part of Washington’s plan for an eventual withdrawal of its troops.

Washington has focused on training and reinforcing Iraq’s own security forces in the hope of being able to hand over responsibility for security and draw down its own troops.

But Iraqi security forces are underequipped and frequently attacked by insurgents, deterring recruitment. There were attacks on police in Kirkuk, Baquba and Baghdad on Saturday.

Stung by defeat for his Republicans at Congressional elections this week, US President George Bush has said he is open to new ideas on Iraq, and his top generals are preparing recommendations for a shift in strategy.

With growing US pressure not to leave US troops in Iraq indefinitely, the establishment of a credible, forceful and independent Iraqi security force is crucial.

However both the police and the army are frequently accused by both sides of being infiltrated by people more interested in promoting the interests of their own sectarian group than acting impartially.

The Shi’ite- and Kurdish-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to balance the demands of its various coalition members, and has yet to come through on pledges to crack down on militias linked to some of its allies.

Police were looking for a group of Shi’ite travellers who were kidnapped after gunmen stopped their buses in the town of Latifiya south of Baghdad late on Saturday.

Police in Diwaniya, the town where the travellers came from, said 58 were kidnapped. Latifiya police said 13 were seized. - Reuters

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