Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Bombing at Tikrit police station kills at least 50

Insurgents target new recruits as attack in former dictator Saddam¿s home town underlines 'inefficiencies' in security measures.

BAGHDAD // A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of police recruits yesterday, killing at least 52 people and undercutting Iraqi security efforts as the nation struggles to show it can protect itself without foreign help.

The death toll was still rising more than three hours after police said the bomber joined a crowd of more than 100 recruits and detonated his explosives-packed vest outside the police station in the former president Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, about 130 kilometres north of Baghdad.

The attack starkly displayed the Iraqi forces' failure to plug even the most obvious holes in their security as the US military prepares to withdraw from Iraq at the year's end. One recruit who survived the blast said the job seekers were frisked before they entered the station's yard.

"We were waiting in the line to enter the police station yard after being searched when a powerful explosion threw me to the ground," said Quteiba Muhsin, whose legs were fractured in the blast. "I saw the dead bodies of two friends who were in the line. I am still in shock because of the explosion and the scene of my two dead friends."

Loudspeakers from the city's mosques were calling on people to donate blood for the wounded. An Iraqi television station broadcast footage from the scene that showed pools of blood, bits of clothing and shoes of the victims scattered near a concrete blast wall.

Tikrit police put the death toll at 45, with 140 wounded. Dr Anas Abdul Khaliq of Tikrit Hospital confirmed the casualty figures.

Tikrit is the capital of the Sunni-dominated Salahuddin province, and the city sheltered some of al Qa'eda's most fervent support after the US-led invasion in 2003 ousted Saddam.

A Salahuddin provincial councilman, Abdullah Jabara, accused al Qa'eda of being behind the attack.

"The aim of this terrorist attack carried out by al Qa'eda operatives is to shake the security in the province and to bring back instability to Tikrit," Mr Jabara said. "The security forces shoulder responsibility for this tragic incident."

Mr Jabara said insurgents successfully exploited what he called "inefficiencies" and "breaches" in security measures, calling it "an indication that the terrorists are still on the job and all security forces should be on high alert all the time".

One Tikrit policeman said at least two of the dead were police officers.

The group of recruits was the first to vie for 2,000 new police jobs that Iraq's interior ministry recently approved for Salahuddin. They were waiting for interviews and medical checks as part of the application process, another policeman said.

Insurgents have found recruitment centres a favourite target, taking advantage of lax security measures just outside protective barriers at police stations and the confusion caused by job seekers scrambling for work in a country with an unemployment rate as high as 30 per cent.

A taxi driver, Abdul Hamid Mikhlaf, described the scene in Tikrit as "horrific".

"I saw wounded people running in my direction calling for help and asking me to take them to the hospital immediately," he said. "I saw several bodies on the ground as the policemen started to shoot in the air."

 

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National