25 killed in suicide bombing in Fallujah
( AP ) - A suicide bomber hit a police recruiting center in Fallujah on Thursday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50, police said. U.S. forces backed by helicopter gunships clashed with suspected al-Qaida gunmen in western Baghdad in an engagement that lasted several hours.
At least 10 policemen were among the dead in the Fallujah attack, which occurred about 11 a.m., according to a police official in the city who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Fallujah, in restive Anbar province, is 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Police said the bomber detonated his explosives vest at the third of four checkpoints as he stood among recruits who were lining up to apply for jobs on the force. The center had only been opened on Saturday in a primary school in eastern Fallujah.
The U.S. military and Iraqi army and police were running the center along with members of Anbar Salvation Council, a loose grouping of Sunni tribes that have banded together to fight al-Qaida.
Police stations and recruiting posts have been a favorite target of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida through the course of the Iraq war.
The fighting in western Baghdad's Amariyah neighborhood exploded after residents there called for U.S. help.
Members of al-Qaida, who consider the district part of their so-called Islamic State of Iraq, were preventing students from attending final examinations, shooting randomly and forcing residents to stay in their homes, according to an official of the district council. He spoke on condition of anonymity fearing retribution from al-Qaida.
Clashes continued into Thursday afternoon, and the council official said the al-Qaida leader in the region, known as Haji Hameed, was killed and 45 other fighters detained.
There was no immediate word on the fighting from the U.S. military.