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Suicide bomber wounds 38 at Iraqi army base

No deaths in Iraq suicide attack: defence ministry
Iraq's defence ministry spokesman denied there were any deaths in a suicide bomb attack west of Baghdad on Thursday, after security officials had said the blast killed 16 Iraqi soldiers. "The last and official toll of the suicide attack on Thursday in Habbaniya is 38 soldiers wounded, and 11 of them have already left the hospital," defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told AFP. Senior defence and interior ministry officials said earlier that 16 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 50 people wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up among troops waiting outside the base's cafeteria.
by Staff Writers
Habbaniyah, Iraq (AFP) April 16, 2009
A suicide bomber wounded 38 Iraqi army recruits in a base west of Baghdad on Thursday, according to a defence ministry spokesman who denied earlier reports that 16 soldiers were killed.

Mohammed al-Askari told AFP the "last and official toll" of the attack on the military base in Habbaniya, 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of Baghdad, was 38 soldiers wounded, adding that 11 had already left the hospital.

Senior defence and interior ministry officials had earlier said that 16 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 50 soldiers wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up among troops waiting outside the base's cafeteria.

But Askari said the attacker, wearing a military uniform, had attacked a group of new recruits as they were going through their morning exercises. The military has launched an investigation into the incident.

"We will not accept any negligence in any military units," Askari said. He declined to comment on the differing accounts provided by the other security officials.

Habbaniyah is in Iraq's western Anbar province, the one-time epicentre of the Sunni Arab insurgency but which in recent years has seen vast overall improvements in security.

Iraq's armed forces have been hit by a spate of attacks in recent days, underscoring the fragility of the country's security gains less than three months before US soldiers are to withdraw from all cities and major towns.

On Wednesday, a car bomb tore through a bus carrying police through the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, killing 10 policemen and wounding 22 more.

Local officials blamed that attack on Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been largely driven out of most of its former strongholds but retains the ability to stage deadly bombings.

Last week a suicide bomber also disguised in military fatigues killed nine people, including soldiers and members of the US-allied Sahwa "Awakening" forces, at their local headquarters in the town of Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Also last week, a suicide truck bomber hit a police compound in Mosul during a visit by US troops, killing five American soldiers and three members of Iraqi security forces in the deadliest attack on US forces in more than a year.

The recent streak of bombings could endanger the US military's plans to withdraw from all major population centres by June 30 in accordance with a security pact signed in November last year.

Colonel Gary Volesky, a US commander in northern Iraq, said this week the troops would remain in volatile Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- if Baghdad asked them to.

And Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi separately told reporters in Paris that his government was prepared to be flexible in the case of Mosul, where Al-Qaeda in Iraq still launches regular attacks.

Despite repeated Iraqi-US operations in Mosul, the city is gripped by a strong insurgency, in part due to divisions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs and also because of tribal rivalries.

Anbar province where Thursday's attack took place was the birthplace in late 2006 of the Sahwa movement, also known as the Sons of Iraq, in which local tribes and former insurgents allied with US forces to drive out Al-Qaeda.

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US troops may stay longer in Mosul: commander
Washington (AFP) April 14, 2009
US troops could stay in violence-wracked Mosul beyond a June 30 deadline for withdrawing from Iraqi cities if Baghdad asks them to, the commander of US forces in the northern province said Tuesday.

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