A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed ambulance crashed through the front gate of an Iraqi guard force headquarters on Wednesday, killing at least seven people and toppling a building, officials said.

Along with a suicide bombing a day before that killed 65 people in a crowd of police recruits, the attack shattered a relative calm that had lasted for weeks across Iraq. Both attacks had familiar targets — Militants frequently hit Iraq’s security forces to try to keep the country off balance as U.S. troops prepare to fully withdraw at the end of this year.

In Wednesday’s attack in the eastern city of Baqouba, the ambulance broke through the front gate of the Facilities Protective Services compound, which houses the local headquarters and some training grounds for the Iraqi security force tasked with guarding government buildings.

The vehicle exploded when guards opened fire to try to stop it, ripping down a nearby building, said Maj. Ghalib al-Karkhi, the police spokesman for the surrounding Diyala province. Seven people were killed and 74 wounded, he said.

Duleir Hassan, a Diyala provincial councilman who oversees security issues, said the bomber was driving an ambulance. It was not clear how the attacker obtained the vehicle.

Baqouba is 60 km northeast of Baghdad.

Tuesday’s attack took place on the outskirts of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown in north-central Iraq.

Dr. Raied al-Ani, director of Tikrit hospital, raised the death toll in the bombing to 65, with at least 150 wounded. Local officials declared a three-day mourning period.

Hundreds of recruits had gathered outside the targeted police station to be among the first applicants for 2,000 newly created Interior Ministry jobs. Authorities said the suicide bomber joined the crowd, then detonated his explosives-packed vest.

Police also found an unexploded grenade at the scene, indicating the bomber was using other weapons to maximize the blast. Tikrit is 130 km north of Baghdad.

No group has taken responsibility, but the attack was in the style of al-Qaida-linked Sunni groups that want to keep fellow Sunnis from joining the security forces.

A statement posted on a militant website by the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda front group, praised the bombing as a “suicide martyrdom” operation but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

The Tikrit bombing infuriated Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who vowed to investigate and bolster the security forces’ abilities.


Suicide bombing in Iraq kills 50 January 18, 2011

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