A suicide attacker detonated his payload in the middle of a crowd of police recruits in Tikrit yesterday, killing 50 people and wounding 150 others, an interior ministry official said, updating the toll.
The attack occurred at 10:15am at the entrance to a police recruitment site in the middle of the city, and was the worst to hit Iraq in more than two months.
Policemen and soldiers had cordoned off the blast site and several ambulances were rushing wounded people to a nearby hospital, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Loudspeakers from the city’s mosques were calling on people to donate blood for the wounded.
One Tikrit policeman said at least two of the dead were police officers. A second police officer said a grenade that had not exploded was found near the scene.
The group of recruits was the first to vie for 2,000 new police jobs that Iraqi Interior Ministry recently approved for the surrounding Salahuddin Province, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims. They were waiting for interviews and medical checks as part of the application process, police said.
Both policemen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Tikrit is the former hometown of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, 160km north of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, a governor in the oil-rich north cut the electricity going to Baghdad from a power station in his province on Monday because his own constituents have been left with little power this winter.
Tamim Governor Abdul-Rahman Mustafa said residents in Kirkuk only have three hours of power each day. The failure of negotiations with Iraq’s Electricity Ministry to share the power generated at a plant in Taza, just south of Kirkuk, gave him little choice but to cut the electricity headed to Baghdad, he said.
“We have started to cut the megawatts generated by Taza station, and we will provide the Kirkuk people with it,” Mustafa told reporters.
He estimated it would take 25 hours to shut down the power supply to Baghdad. Neighborhoods in the capital, according to the ministry, get 12 hours of electricity a day.
The director of the Taza plant, Jalal Ahmed, confirmed the ebb in power to Baghdad after its levels were dialed down from an electricity distribution station in Kirkuk.
Power shortages have been a sore spot for residents across Iraq, especially during the extreme cold and heat.
A Kirkuk councilman, Ahmed Askari, said local residents were threatening to launch their own protests “if the Kirkuk local government did not provide enough electricity to the people.”
Shortly before the power was cut, demonstrators shut off a main northbound highway from Kirkuk, located 290km north of Baghdad, and threw rocks at approaching cars in an attempt to draw attention to the region’s electricity woes.
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