Death toll rises following Iraq suicide blast

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The Independent Online

Over thirty people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on police recruits in Saddam Hussein's home town, Iraqi officials said today.

A city policeman said the bomber slipped into a crowd of about 100 people waiting to apply for jobs with Iraq's security forces in Tikrit, some 80 miles (130km) north of the capital, Baghdad.

He said another 22 people were injured in the attack.

The casualties were confirmed by Dr Anas Abdul Khaliq, of Tikrit hospital.

Army and police recruitment centres are frequent targets for militants, underscoring the determination of applicants to risk their lives for work in Iraq, which has an unemployment rate estimated as high as 30%.

The death toll was still rising more than two hours after the bombing as loudspeakers from the city's mosques continued to call on people to donate blood for the wounded.

The group of recruits was the first to apply for 2,000 new police jobs that Iraq's Interior Ministry recently approved for the surrounding Salahuddin province, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims. They were waiting for interviews and medical checks as part of the application process.

Security measures are often loose just outside protective barriers at police stations amid the confusion caused by desperate jobseekers vying for work in a country with an unemployment rate as high as 30%.

The attack starkly displayed Iraqi forces' failure to plug even the most obvious holes in their security as the US military prepares to withdraw from the country at the year's end.

A similar strike on a recruitment centre in central Baghdad last August left 61 dead and 125 wounded in what was one of the deadliest attacks of the summer.

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