Middle East

Suicide bomb kills 60 at Iraqi police centre in Tikrit

A suicide bomber has killed at least 60 people outside a police recruitment centre in the Iraqi town of Tikrit, officials say.

More than 100 other people were injured in the blast in the town, some 130km (80 miles) north of Baghdad.

Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, who frequently target Iraqi security forces.

Violence in Iraq has ebbed in recent years, but deadly attacks persist.

The suicide bomber was wearing a heavy vest of explosives mixed with ball-bearings to maximise casualties, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

Rescue services in Tikrit were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the carnage, and some of the casualties had to be ferried to other towns and cities, he adds.

Blood donations appeal

Most of the victims were police recruits.

Local mosques used their loudspeaker systems to broadcast appeals for blood donations.

Ahmed Abdul-Jabbar, deputy governor of Salahuddin province, said the attack was the work of "terrorists".

"Who else would it be but al-Qaeda, who keep on slaughtering us?" he asked.

The death toll is unusually high for a suicide bombing carried out by one man operating on foot, analysts say.

Some estimate the bomber may have been carrying as much as 50kg (110lbs) of explosives.

Tikrit retains a lot of residual sympathy and nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's overthrown Ba'athist regime, correspondents say.

An attack on the police academy in the town killed 40 people in 2007.

Iraqi police and army recruiting centres are often targeted by suicide bombers.

Overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply since the height of the sectarian killings of 2006-07, but shootings and bombings remain a daily occurrence.

In October, an attack on a Baghdad church killed more than 50 people.

US forces formally ended their combat operations last August, ahead of a planned full withdrawal later this year.