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Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Claims Deadly Baghdad Bombing

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- An Al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on police recruits in Baghdad on March 8 that killed 28 people, according to a statement posted on an Islamist website.

The statement posted on March 11 and attributed to the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, a Sunni Islamist group, praised the bomber as a "martyr."

"A knight of the Islamic State in Iraq from the martyrs battalion...on March 8, 2009, infiltrated with his explosives vest a big crowd of apostate police recruits near the gate of the police academy in Baghdad," it said.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed a ferocious Sunni insurgency, but violence has dropped sharply in the past year. More Sunnis, a minority but dominant under Saddam Hussein, have entered the political process and vote in elections.

However, the insurgency remains strong in the northern city of Mosul and in ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala Governorate, where security crackdowns are in progress.

The Islamic State in Iraq called in September for Sunni moderate politicians to be killed, an apparent effort to stop reconciliation between Sunnis and Iraq's majority Shi'ites, whom many Sunni insurgents consider heretics.

A bomb attack on tribal leaders and security officials killed at least 28 people in Baghdad on March 110, when they were due to meet for a reconciliation conference. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.

The bombings have aroused fears that Iraq's security forces may not be ready to take over when U.S. troops withdraw by the end of August next year, as announced by U.S. President Barack Obama last month.