Officials: 18 killed in Iraqi police academy blast

SAMEER N. YACOUB Associated Press Published:

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber detonated his car Sunday as a group of police recruits left their academy in Baghdad, killing 18 in the latest strike on Iraqi security officials by insurgents who are apparently seeking to underscore how vulnerable the country remains.

Police said the suicide bomber was waiting on the street outside the fortified academy near the Interior Ministry headquarters in the east of the Iraqi capital. As the crowd of recruits exited the compound's security barriers in the early afternoon and walked into the road, police said the bomber drove toward them and blew up his car.

All of the dead were either police officers or recruits. Another 27 recruits and policemen were wounded.

Officials at three nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

An academy employee said recruits had just finished a two-week training course. Generally, the recruits are escorted out of the compound, but are on their own once they get to the street.

Police recruits have been attacked time and time again in spectacular attacks where suicide bombers have infiltrated protection barriers and other checkpoints.

Iraq's police are generally considered to be the weakest element of the country's security forces. In October, 25 people across Baghdad were killed in a string of attacks that included two bombers slamming explosives-packed cars into police stations.

Sunday's attack also shows anew extremists' ability to pull off attacks despite government crackdowns and fewer resources. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but suicide attacks are a hallmark of al-Qaida.

Last week, Iraqi and U.S. officials acknowledged that al-Qaida remains a potent threat in Iraq, noting fears that the insurgent network was shifting to Syria to aid forces opposing the regime of President Bashar Assad.