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20 people killed in Iraqi police academy blast

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber detonated his car Sunday as a group of police recruits left their academy in Baghdad, killing 20 in the latest strike on security officials that angry residents blamed on political feuding that is roiling Iraq.

Police said the suicide bomber was waiting on the street outside the fortified academy near the Interior Ministry in an eastern neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. As the crowd of recruits exited the compound's security barriers around 1 p.m. and walked into the road, police said, the bomber drove toward them and blew up his car.

"We heard a big explosion and the windows of the room shattered," said Haider Mohammed, 44, an employee in the nearby Police Sports Club, about 100 yards from the academy's gate. He described a horrific scene of burning cars, scattered pieces of burned flesh and wounded people flattened on the ground.

"Everybody here knows the time when the recruits come and go from the academy," Mohammed said. "This is a breach of security."

Five police officers were among the dead; the rest were recruits. Another 28 recruits and police officers were wounded.

Officials at three nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties.

Shiite lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, who sits on parliament's security and defense committee, said the police academy's officials should have been more careful about letting the recruits go at the same time every day. He said that was a pattern that insurgents easily noted.

"This was negligence by security officials in charge of academy security," al-Zamili said.

Al-Zamili blamed al-Qaida for launching the attack but raised the possibility that it aimed to ramp up bitterness among Iraqis already exasperated with ongoing political fighting that has consumed the government for weeks. "The political feuds are contributing to such security violations because they are demoralizing the security members," he said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but suicide attacks are a hallmark of al-Qaida.

20 people killed in Iraqi police academy blast 02/19/12 [Last modified: Sunday, February 19, 2012 10:20pm]
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