Tikrit, Jan 18 (AFP) A suicide bomber blew himself upamong a crowd of police recruits in the Iraqi city of Tikrittoday, killing 50 people and wounding 150, an interiorministry official said.
The blast was the deadliest to hit Iraq since anOctober 31 siege at a Baghdad church left 53 people dead, andwas the first major attack in the country since the formationof a new government on December 21.
"Fifty people were killed and 150 wounded by a suicidebomber at a police recruitment centre in Tikrit," the officialsaid in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"A suicide attacker blew himself up at a policerecruitment centre in the middle of Tikrit this morning," apolice officer in the city said, also speaking on condition ofanonymity.
Among the dead were recruits and policemen, he said,without giving details.
An AFP journalist said the bomb site in the middle ofTikrit, the former hometown of now-executed dictator SaddamHussein, 160 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital, wascovered in torn off flesh and pools of blood, with pieces ofclothing and shoes scattered across the scene.
Policemen and soldiers had cordoned off the blast siteand several ambulances were rushing wounded people to a nearbyhospital.
Witnesses, who declined to be identified, said therecruits had been queuing to enter the centre since 6:00 am,with the attacker detonating his payload at the entrance tothe site at around 10:15 am (01245 IST).
The death toll was the highest from a single attacksince Al-Qaeda insurgents stormed a Baghdad church on October31 with the ensuing siege leading to the deaths of 44worshippers, two priests and seven security force members.
It was also the first major strike in Iraq since PrimeMinister Nuri al-Maliki named a new cabinet on December 21,ending nine months of stalemate after March 7 elections.
Insurgents have targeted Iraqi security recruitmentcentres in the past. A suicide bomber blew himself up in acrowded army recruitment centre in Baghdad on August 17,killing 59 people and wounding 125.
Iraq''s security forces are now solely responsible forthe country''s security, with the US having declared a formalend to combat operations in the country at the end of August.
While the US military still has around 50,000 soldiersstationed in the country, they are tasked mostly with trainingand advising their Iraqi counterparts, and must withdrawcompletely by the end of the year.
Violence across Iraq has declined substantially sinceits peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. Thetotal death toll for last month was the lowest since November2009 and marked the fifth month in a row in which the deathtoll has been lower than the previous month. (AFP)