At least 15 people have been killed and more than 20 others injured after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle outside the main entrance of the police academy in eastern Baghdad, Iraqi officials said late on Sunday.
Most of the casualties in the explosion were new police recruits, but included a few policemen and civilians. The suicide bomber is said to have exploded his vehicle as dozens of recruits exited the compound's security barriers and were walking toward the road.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide bombing, the third targeting the academy after similar attacks in 2005 and 2009. The al-Qaeda in Iraq had claimed responsibility for that attacks.
Although violence has dropped across Iraq in recent years, the war-ravaged country still witnesses such attacks on a regular basis. Most of them are blamed on Sunni Islamist insurgents, who are still active in Iraq despite ongoing efforts to improve security.
Sunday's attack came amid a Shia-Sunni power struggle stirred by a warrant issued for the arrest of Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges. Hashemi, who is accused of running a death squad that targeted government and security officials, has denied the charges.
Hashemi is currently hiding in the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, which has its own government and security forces. Despite repeated requests by the Iraqi government to hand him over, the Kurdistan regime is yet to comply. Further, Hashemi has refused to stand trial in Baghdad.
Hashemi is a leader of the Sunni-backed political bloc Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi. The arrest warrant had earlier prompted the al-Iraqiya bloc and other Sunni political parties to boycott the Parliament as well as the Cabinet, alleging that the charges against Hashemi were politically motivated.
However, the Sunni lawmakers have since ended their boycott, raising hopes that the crisis might be resolved soon. Their boycott had earlier triggered fears of possible sectarian violence and threatened to derail the country's delicate power-sharing agreement after the recent withdrawal of American forces.
The last of U.S. combat troops departed from Iraq by the end of December, ending a decade-long American military presence since the 2001 invasion of the Middle East nation. The ending of the U.S. combat mission was in line with a bilateral security agreement that required the withdrawal of all American troops from the country by the end of 2011.
by RTT Staff Writer
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