Suicide bomber killed dozens of Iraqi Army recruits as a new Diyala offensive looms

Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted a successful dual suicide attack on an Army recruiting center in Baqubah as the Iraqi military is preparing to launch a new offensive in Diyala province.

Two suicide bombers detonated their vests within the Saad military camp as Iraqi Army recruits gathered inside. Twenty-two recruits were killed and more than 55 wounded, some seriously, Voices of Iraq reported.

The attack in Baqubah targeted recruits just as the Iraqi government is finalizing its plans to launch a fresh offensive in Diyala province. The final orders to launch the operation are waiting for the approval of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the operations chief for Iraq’s Interior Ministry told Voices of Iraq last weekend.

The operation is expected to be launched in the next week. Iraqi troops were reported to be massing near Baqubah on July 11.

Iraqi and US forces have conducted several operations in Diyala province since the surge was announced. Last summer and fall, operations focused on clearing Baqubah, the Diyala River Valley north of Baqubah, and surrounding districts of al Qaeda and Mahdi Army influence.

In January 2008, an operation was launched in the Miqdadiyah region, where al Qaeda was building a safe haven.

Al Qaeda still maintains a stronghold in the Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces. This area is a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups.

More Iraqis are currently being killed in Diyala province per day per capita than in any other province in Iraq, according to numbers compiled by Chris Radin of The Long War Journal. Diyala has 2.62 Iraqis killed per day per million, compared to Ninewa (1.4) and Baghdad (0.6), the second and third most violent provinces.

The upcoming Diyala operation will be the latest in a series of Iraqi planned and led offensives taking on both Sunni and Shia extremist groups. The Iraqi military took on al Qaeda and its allied terror groups in Mosul in the beginning of the year. This operation was followed by offensives against the Mahdi Army in Basrah, Baghdad’s Sadr City, Dhi Qhar, Maysan, and in the wider South. US and Coalition forces have, with the exception in Sadr City, played a largely supporting role in the operations, providing, air, artillery, and logistical support.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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