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Blast kills 31 at Iraq army base

07 November, 2012

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BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-filled car into soldiers outside an army base near Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 31 people and injuring tens more in one of the worst attacks this year on the country’s military.

The attack was not owned by any group, but previous bombings against security force recruitment drives have been claimed by Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq, which views soldiers, policemen and civil servants as supporters of the Baghdad government.

The midday (0900 GMT) blast in the town of Taji, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the capital, is likely to raise fresh concerns about the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces 11 months after the departure of American troops. The bomber drove his car into crowds of troops and recruits outside the base in Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, leaving body parts and burned vehicles scattered in the streets outside, police and hospital officials said.

At least 31 people were killed, mostly soldiers, and another 50 people were wounded in the blast, a hospital source said.

"There were army trainees leaving the base and small buses were waiting for them when the explosion took place," said Ahmed Khalef, a policeman working nearby. "We immediately started to rescue the wounded. You could smell of charred bodies."

Differing tolls and breakdowns of casualty figures are common in the chaotic aftermath of violence in Iraq, which is typically carried out by militants bent on targeting the Shia-led government and its institutions.

Heavy security was placed around Kadhimiyah hospital where many of the victims were being sent, an AFP journalist said, with family members of recruits rushing to the facility for news of their relatives. Journalists were barred from taking photographs or speaking to victims.

"I was home when the bomb went off," said a man who identified himself only as Jawad, whose son was wounded in the blast. "But when it exploded, I went straight to the hospital, because I knew my son was at the base, and I expected he would be hurt. I was right."

The explosion struck as the base was holding a recruitment day to welcome potential new soldiers, events which have previously been targets of militants intent on carrying out mass-casualty attacks in Iraq.

On January 18, 2011, a suicide bombing in the middle of a crowd of police recruits in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, killed 50 people and wounded 150, and on August 17, 2010, another suicide attacker killed 59 army recruits and wounded 125 others.

Officials insist Iraq’s security forces are capable of largely maintaining internal stability, despite regular deadly attacks nationwide, but they are widely acknowledged to be unable to protect the country’s borders, airspace or maritime territory.

Their numbers have been stretched, however, as increasing numbers of soldiers have been deployed to Iraq’s border amid fears the violence ravaging Syria could spill across the frontier.

End.

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