A suicide bomber has killed at least 28 people near Iraq's police academy in Baghdad. The attack occurred as the United States and Britain announced major troop reductions by September.
The explosion, outside Baghdad's police academy, was the second major terrorist attack in Iraq in three days. A suicide bomber, riding either a bicycle or a motorcycle, detonated an explosive belt near a side entrance to the academy, killing and wounding dozens.
An eyewitness said a large number of victims were police officers and many were badly injured.
Two previous explosions targeted the police academy, one in December, and another two years ago. The attacks caused the closure of the area to most vehicular traffic.
One lane of Palestine Street where the explosion took place was reopened to through traffic, last year, although police set up numerous checkpoints. Motorbikes, and bicycles, however, were not restricted.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Abdel Karim Khalaf indicated the explosion took place in a sensitive area.
Many government ministries, he says, are located in this area, and it is a congregating place for many ordinary citizens. It would appear, he argues, the perpetrators are retaliating for the arrests of a large number of al-Qaida members two weeks ago, including a handful of kingpins. He says Iraqi authorities dismantled more than 15 al-Qaida cells and it is a normal reaction on their part to target Iraq's security forces. He said this was not what he would call a security breakdown ...
General Khalaf insisted he is "optimistic" about the security situation in Iraq.
He says the security situation in Iraq is much better than it was before. Explosions like this could take place anywhere. Similar things have happened in Turkey, Spain, France, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria, he argues, and all of these countries are reputedly safe places. This kind of explosion is perpetrated by a small cell, and one person, probably a teenager, blows himself up, attacking the entire civilian population of the country. The success of Iraq's security forces, in general, he maintains, has provoked this kind of operation.
The suicide attack took place while U.S. and Iraqi officials announced there would be a drawdown of U.S. and British troops by the end of December.
Al-Iraqia TV showed U.S. commanding General Raymond Odierno and Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassem making the announcement. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant. John Brimley explains the decision.
"General Odierno made the recommendation to reduce forces within the next six months," Brimley said. "When this is complete, approximately 12,000 fewer U.S. and 4,000 fewer British forces will be in Iraq."
Despite the recent explosions, the security situation in Iraq has improved dramatically since late 2007, causing President Barack Obama to announce an end to combat operations in Iraq within 18 months.