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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Suicide Attack Kills Dozens in Iraq

FALLUJA, Iraq -- A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of men waiting to sign up to join the police force in the Iraqi city of Falluja on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people, doctors said.

Violence has flared in the mainly Sunni Arab Anbar province, with U.S. and Iraqi forces killing over 100 insurgents in the past week in the capital, Ramadi, west of Falluja, and a suicide car bomber killing 10 in an attempt to assassinate the governor on Tuesday.

The parliament, which will soon vote on forming a government of national unity -- seen as the best hope for ending the bloodshed -- began its first normal business session since being elected in December.

But speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani deferred what was to have been the most important issue, the selection of a committee to review and amend the Constitution, until after a new government was formed and approved by parliament.

"I suggest waiting to form the constitutional committee until the formation of the next government and until the situation stabilizes because it is an important issue and needs more negotiation among the blocs," he said.

Shiite Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki has said he could have a Cabinet lineup ready soon.

The U.S. military says attacks on civilians have doubled since a Shiite mosque was bombed in February, and senior Iraqi officials say at least 100,000 have fled their homes.

In what has become a regular occurrence, the bodies of 14 men, with bullet holes and showing signs of torture, were found in Baghdad on Wednesday, police said. The victims were also blindfolded and bound. Twenty such bodies were found in the city throughout Tuesday, police said.

In Falluja, 60 kilometers west of the capital, Bilal Mahmoud, a doctor, said most of the 20 people wounded in the attack on the police recruits were in critical condition.

The insurgents have been shifting their focus from U.S. and other foreign troops to Iraq's new army and police forces, although American soldiers are still dying at a rate of close to two per day. The large crowds drawn to recruiting centers are a common target. More than 80 people were killed in an attack on a police recruiting center in Ramadi in January.

The government is keen to expand recruitment in Sunni areas, to reduce perceptions that the army and police are offshoots of the original Shiite and Kurdish-led interim government.

In addition to tackling the violence, Maliki's other major task will be to revive an economy shattered by three years of war and insurgency.

Pivotal to that will be the oil industry, losing billions of dollars per year from rebel attacks, corruption and smuggling.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hashem al-Hashemi told reporters on Wednesday that Iraq aimed to increase oil exports to about 2 million barrels per day by the end of the year, from about 1.5 bpd now and compared with about 1.7 bpd before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, but sabotage attacks against pipelines and installations cost it $7 billion in 2005 and $6 billion in 2004.