Al-Qaida in Iraq Claims Army Recruit Bombing

By Lara Jakes | August 20, 2010 | 10:04 AM EDT
Baghdad (AP) - An al-Qaida in Iraq front group on Friday claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing this week that killed 61 Iraqi army recruits in the deadliest single act of violence in Baghdad in months.
The Islamic State of Iraq, which includes al-Qaida in Iraq and other allied Sunni insurgent factions, boasted that its operative easily passed through checkpoints before detonating his explosives belt in a crowd of officers and recruits outside army headquarters Tuesday.
The bomber was able to "break all barriers" and strike "Shiite infidels and other apostates who were selling their religion," the group said in a statement posted on a militant website.
The Iraqi army's recruitment drive aimed to hire soldiers from of the country's poorest Shiite areas. The Islamic State of Iraq is a Sunni extremist group that considers Shiites heretics.
The bombing, which also wounded at least 125 people, once again raised concerns about the Iraqi security forces' readiness to protect their country at a time when all but 50,000 U.S. troops are heading home.
A senior adviser to Iraq's top Shiite cleric blasted the country's police and military leadership Friday for failing to protect military recruits despite repeated attacks on them in the past.
"Several attacks have occurred against gatherings of recruits, yet security forces failed to take precautionary measures to protect them," said Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie during Friday's sermon in the holy city of Karbala.
Al-Karbalaie is a top representative of the revered cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose views carry great weight with Iraq's Shiite majority. Al-Karbalaie called on the government to take "firm action" against those responsible for the security breach.
Suspected Sunni militants have frequently targeted Iraq's policemen and soldiers looking to expose the inability of the Shiite-dominated government to protect the country, particularly in light of the looming departure of the U.S. military.
The U.S. plans to withdraw all combat forces by Aug. 31, leaving only 50,000 troops to help train Iraqi security forces. As of Friday, there were an estimated 52,000 U.S. soldiers were still in Iraq.
Also Friday, three people were killed and three more wounded in south Baghdad's Dora neighborhood by bomb hidden in a trash heap, police and hospital officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.
The bomber was able to 'break all barriers' and strike 'Shiite infidels and other apostates who were selling their religion,' the group said in a statement posted on a militant website.