A woman walked up to the gate of a new recruitment center in Tal Afar, a northern city, on Wednesday and blew herself up, killing 8 people in addition to herself and wounding 57, hospital and security officials said.
The bomber, who The Associated Press reported was dressed in men's clothing, struck at 10:45 a.m. outside the gate of a building that houses the new recruitment center and an American military office that processes compensation forms for Iraqis, the officials said. She detonated her belt of explosives, spraying metal balls into a crowd that had gathered, awaiting a security check, they said.
Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the terrorist group led by the Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on a Web site.
The posting said the attack had been aimed at the recruitment center, which opened just five days earlier. The attack occurred as the military finished several weeks of sweeps in Tal Afar, whose successes had been frequently trumpeted by Iraqi officials. The suicide bombing was the deadliest of several strikes on Wednesday, which left at least 19 people dead throughout Iraq.
In Washington, President Bush predicted more violence in Iraq before the national vote on Oct. 15 on a constitution, but he said the terrorists would not succeed.
"They can't stand elections," Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden, where he was flanked by his top military command. "The thought of people voting is an anathema to them," reports the New York Times.
According to Washington Post, "Today's attack seems to represent a new tactic by the insurgents to use women, who are rarely searched at the Tall Afar checkpoints because of religious and social traditions that grant women special treatment," Gen. Ahmed Mohammed Khalaf, the regional police chief, told the AP. This did not explain, however, how a woman dressed in men's clothing would not have raised suspicions.
Khalaf said that as a result of the bombing, women and children would now be searched in the same manner as men.
In Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said it erroneously reported on Tuesday that a potential suicide bomber had penetrated a checkpoint inside the Green Zone, the fortified complex in the center of the capital that houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices.
The military press office in the Green Zone had told news outlets that U.S. Marines stopped a car rigged with explosives and detained the driver when he attempted to enter a checkpoint near the U.S. Embassy. The vehicle was then detonated, the military said. Such an incident would have represented a significant breach in security in what is considered the safest place in Iraq.