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A relative lull in violence in Iraq during the past week was shattered today when a suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi Army recruiting center in western Baghdad -- killing at least 18 people and injured more than 40. Nine Iraqi Shi'ites from a single family in Baghdad also were killed in their home overnight. Meanwhile, suicide bombers today carried out attacks in Kirkuk and Mosul.
Prague, 10 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi men and women in tears of hysteria and rage at the scene of carnage today in western Baghdad. The Iraqi Army recruiting center at Baghdad's Muthanna Airfield has been targeted by insurgents in the past. But not with such devastating effect.
Previous attacks also have not deterred Iraqi men from seeking work in a country where unemployment is high. That has made recruits to the new Iraqi security forces prime targets for bombers, who frequently are able to mingle with those hoping for the well-paid but risky employment.
Today's attack occurred just as the work day was starting and a large group of potential recruits stood waiting in line to apply.
Baghdad police officer Ayman Abdullah witnessed the attack from a safe enough distance to survive.
"A group of people who came to the recruitment center at Muthanna Airport was standing on the other side of the road. We helped the people to cross the street. But before they entered the gate there was a crowd at the entrance and a man with explosives strapped to his body walked among them and blew himself up. The casualties were about 45 killed and many others wounded," Abdullah said.
As often happens with bomb attacks against crowds of people, the initial death toll estimated by police at the chaotic and gruesome blast scene was higher than figures confirmed later by hospital officials. By mid-day today, Iraqi hospital officials were saying at least 18 people were killed outside of the recruiting center and 40 wounded.
An Al-Qaeda-linked group led by Jordanian-born Abu Mu'sab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack in a message posted to an Arabic-language website. The group calls itself the "Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers."
Many of the insurgents fighting against the Shi'ite-led and U.S.-backed Iraqi government are thought to be either Sunni Arabs or foreign fighters like al-Zarqawi.
Further violence was reported in a mainly Shi'ite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad today. Authorities say attackers killed a family of nine Iraqi Shi'ites overnight. Neighbors of the family are blaming Sunni Arab insurgents for the attack.
A suicide bomber also attacked the motorcade of a district police chief in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Four people were killed and three injured in that attack. Officials say Mosul Police Chief Salim Salih Meshaal was not harmed.
Meanwhile, police in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk say a suicide bomber carried out an attack today near the local authority headquarters there. Lieutenant Colonel Taha Salahudin was among the police who arrived at that blast scene shortly after the attack.
"Today in the morning, a car with a suicide bomber exploded [in Kirkuk]. The car was a blue Mercedes. It exploded in front of the Republican Hospital, resulting in five wounded civilians and at least one person killed," Taha Salahudin said.
Police spokesman Colonel Yadigar Mohammed said later that three civilians were killed and 10 were injured. He said it was not clear what the bomber's target had been.
Kirkuk's oil wealth is a source of dispute between rival ethnic groups in the city -- Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans -- and it has sparked violence during the past two years.
(Translations from Arabic by Reuters and RFE/RL's Sultan Sarwar)