Suicide bomber kills 27 at Iraqi police base

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BAGHDAD, Oct 29 (Reuters) A suicide bomber on a motorbike killed 27 policemen at a base north of Baghdad today, police said, in one of the worst attacks on Iraq's security forces in months.

The bomber entered the base, which houses a special rapid reaction unit, and attacked a group of policemen doing their morning exercises, said Major-General Ghanim al-Quraishi, police chief for Diyala province.

He said details of the bombing were confused because everyone at the scene had been killed or badly wounded.

The base is in the city of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, where al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups as well as Shi'ite Muslim militias operate.

At least 20 people had been wounded in the attack, including a woman and a child, police said.

No group claimed immediate responsibility for the bombing but it bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda, which has often used suicide bombers in attacks on Iraqi security forces to devastasting effect.

Al Qaeda has vowed to attack former Sunni Arab insurgents who have allied themselves with US forces in Diyala province to try and root out the Sunni Islamist group.

US and Iraqi forces launched a major offensive against al Qaeda in Diyala province this year, regaining control of Baquba and forcing many of the group's fighters to flee elsewhere.

Al Qaeda has used Diyala province as a launch-pad for large-scale bomb attacks in Baghdad.

Baquba's police chief was among 26 people killed last month when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque compound where local Shi'ite and Sunni Arab leaders were holding reconciliation talks.

REUTERS SYU HS1243

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