Suicide bomber kills 16 police, recruits in Iraq

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 14 police recruits and two policemen in northern Iraq on Thursday, police and military sources said.

An attacker wearing a military uniform detonated an explosive vest near a police recruiting centre where about 200 applicants queued at Sinjar, near Mosul, police said.

Ten police recruits and five police officers were wounded, police and military sources said.

Sunni insurgents have carried out frequent attacks on police recruits, killing hundreds.

The attack took place while a conference on rebuilding Iraq after years of conflict was being held in Stockholm.

Iraqi security officials have said an offensive against al Qaeda in Mosul, which the U.S. military says is the Sunni Islamist group’s last major urban stronghold, had wiped out most of the insurgent network.

Al Qaeda, which has defied previous predictions of its demise, sought haven in Iraq’s northern provinces after being pushed out of western Anbar province and Baghdad last year.

Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years, according to figures released by the U.S. military, but officials said progress was still fragile and reversible.

The mayor of Sinjar, Dakheel Qassim, said police in the town had been recruiting for three days.

After receiving information that there would be a suicide attack, town officials asked the police to halt recruiting but local people, driven by the need to find work, continued to queue up at the recruiting station.

“They gathered near the gate of the recruiting centre despite the fact that the police told them through loudspeakers that there was no recruiting today and to disperse,” he said.

“A suicide bomber came and blew himself up among them,” he said.

The attack came 10 days after gunmen killed 11 police recruits in an attack near Ba’aj, which is close to Sinjar.

Reporting by Aseel Kami, Writing by Adrian Croft; Editing by Michael Georgy and Ibon Villelabeitia