Baquba suicide attack kills 68

The explosion ripped through a line of Iraqis queuing for jobs in the police force and a passing bus laden with passengers, in the city north of Baghdad.

Confirming that a suicide bomber triggered the massive explosion, the provincial police chief, General Walid Khaled Abdel Salam, accused a group loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s suspected chief in Iraq, of masterminding the attack.

Zarqawi has claimed earlier attacks targeting US-backed Iraqi security forces in Baquba.

A police officer said 600 police recruits were due to come to the station on Wednesday and Thursday. It was impossible to squeeze all the applicants into the building, so some had to wait outside.

“We tried to force them back, but they wouldn’t listen. A car just came by and blew up in their midst,” he said.

The carnage, one of the worst attacks since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April of last year, came as the embattled interim Iraqi government marked one month in office amid ever increasing violence and a hostage crisis.

Wednesday’s bloodshed was the worst death toll from a single bomb attack in Iraq since a blast outside a mosque in the holy city of Najaf last August killed more than 80 people.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a Middle East tour, said the latest bombing was yet another “attempt by murderers to deny the Iraqi people the dream of a peaceful sovereign country”.

But Powell vowed that such incidents would not deter the US from its goals in Iraq.

South of Baghdad, 35 insurgents and seven Iraqi troops were killed in a joint raid with multinational soldiers.

A US military spokesman said the dead insurgents crossed into Iraq illegally from the Iranian border only a few days before.

The region had been largely quiet since the end of an uprising by radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr earlier this year.

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