An al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bomber attacked a group of Iraqi Army recruits outside of a base in Taji, just north of Baghdad, earlier today, killing at least 31 people. From Reuters:
The bomber drove his car into crowds of troops and recruits outside the base in Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, leaving body parts and burned vehicles scattered in the streets outside, police and hospital officials said.
At least 31 people were killed, mostly soldiers, and another 50 people were wounded in the blast, a hospital source said.
“There were army trainees leaving the base and small buses were waiting for them when the explosion took place,” said Ahmed Khalef, a policeman working nearby. “We immediately started to rescue the wounded. You could smell of charred bodies.”
The attack took place just one day after an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman told Al Shorfa that the military and police “stormed a building in Taji, north of Baghdad, arrested 11 al-Qaeda gunmen who had in their possession two car bombs, a third one that was ready to be wired, improvised explosive devices, sticky bombs, and silencer-equipped guns. The detainees confessed to planning to launch a large-scale terrorist attack targeting different areas of the capital this week.”
Despite being driven out of its major stronghold by US and Iraqi forces during the surge that began in 2007, al Qaeda in Iraq maintains the capacity to organize and execute large-scale, complex attacks as well as mass-casualty suicide attacks. The group has also demonstrated the ability to launch coordinated attacks in multiple cities throughout the country at least one or two times a month. At the end of October, al Qaeda in Iraq claimed credit for a series of bombings that targeted Shia worshipers who were celebrating Eid al Adha; more than 50 people were killed.
In October, Iraqi and US officials said al Qaeda in Iraq has more that doubled in strength, from 1,000 to 2,500 fighters, since the US withdrawal from Iraq late last year, and has reestablished training camps in the deserts in the west of the country, according to The Associated Press. Al Qaeda in Iraq has also doubled its capacity to execute attacks.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is increasing the tempo of attacks in Iraq even as it is devoting resources to fight President Bashir al Assad’s regime in Syria. The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, which is thought to have received support and personnel from al Qaeda in Iraq, has claimed credit for 31 suicide attacks in Syria since December 2011, and has executed complex suicide assaults on heavily defended Syrian security installations, with the help of the Free Syrian Army and Chechen fighters.