A suicide bomber blew himself today among a crowd of police recruits in north-western Iraq, killing at least 16 men and wounding 14, an official said.
The blast occurred about 11am in Sinjar, a town near the Syrian border that was the site of the deadliest attack of the war — a series of suicide truck bombings last year that killed an estimated 500 people.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the latest attack. But it bore the hallmarks of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, underscoring Iraqi claims that insurgents have fled to remote areas to escape a US-Iraqi offensive under way in Mosul, which is about 75 miles east of Sinjar.
The top official in Sinjar, Dakhil Qassim, said the casualties would have been higher, but the security services had received tips that police recruiting centres would be targeted and had issued a warning yesterday advising people to stay away.
But a crowd still gathered at the centre in Sinjar. Those killed included 14 recruits and two policemen, while 14 other people were wounded, Qassim said.
"We told them that there are no more recruiting for security reasons," Qassim said. "But people gathered at recruiting center anyway hoping that some official might register their names."
Despite the risks, jobs in the police force are prized in areas of the country where unemployment runs high.
Sinjar is dominated by Yazidis, a small Kurdish-speaking sect whose members are considered to be blasphemers by Muslim extremists. The US military blamed al-Qa'ida for the 14 August bombings that devastated nearby villages and killed some 500 people.
US and Iraqi forces have met relatively little resistance during the operations in Mosul, although there have been sporadic attacks. Commanders have said they believe insurgent leaders had fled to neighbouring areas and would try to regroup.
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