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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

35 Police Recruits Killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber killed 35 people at an Iraqi police recruiting center in Baghdad on Sunday, in the latest attack that undermines U.S. and Iraqi government efforts to bolster the country's security forces.

Interior Ministry sources said 58 people were wounded in the attack after a bomber wearing an explosive-laden vest walked into the recruiting center for police special forces and blew himself up among a crowd of young men.

The attack, the bloodiest in months targeting recruits, comes as U.S. President George W. Bush's top generals prepare recommendations for a shift in strategy following a defeat for his Republicans at Congressional elections last Tuesday.

Sunni Arab insurgents frequently target recruits hoping to join Iraq's fledgling security forces, which are a key part of Washington's plan for an eventual withdrawal of its troops.

In January, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of police recruits in the western city of Ramadi, killing 70.

Washington has focused on training and reinforcing Iraq's security forces in the hope of being able to hand over responsibility for security and draw down its 150,000 troops.

But Iraqi security forces are underequipped and frequently attacked by insurgents, deterring recruitment. There were attacks on police in Kirkuk, Baquba and Baghdad on Saturday.

With growing U.S. pressure not to leave its troops suffering daily casualties in Iraq indefinitely, the establishment of a credible, forceful and independent Iraqi security force is crucial.

Both the police and the army, however, are frequently accused by both sides of being infiltrated by people more interested in promoting the interests of their own sectarian group than acting impartially.

The Pentagon's top general, Peter Pace, has said U.S. military leaders are preparing to recommend changes in Iraq strategy.

The Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, is also looking at alternative approaches.

While indicating he wants new ideas, Bush has insisted a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is not on the table despite the resignation by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the main architect of the war.

The Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has struggled to balance the demands of its various coalition members. The government also has yet to come through on pledges to crack down on militias linked to some of its allies.

The biggest challenge for former CIA director Robert Gates, expected to replace Rumsfeld, will be halting a slide into sectarian civil war.

Police on Sunday were looking for a group of Shiite travelers who were kidnapped after gunmen stopped their buses south of Baghdad on Saturday in the so-called Sunni "Triangle of Death" because of the large number of attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Police in Diwaniya, the town where the travelers came from, said 58 were kidnapped.

But Interior Ministry sources and police in Latifiya, the town where the attack took place, said only 13 had been snatched from the buses.

Mass kidnappings in dangerous roads near mixed areas have become a feature of sectarian violence. Many kidnap victims are later found dumped on the road.