Al Qaeda in Iraq Claims Army Recruit Bombing

BAGHDAD -- An Al Qaeda in Iraq front group on Friday claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing this week that killed 61 Iraqi army recruits in the deadliest single act of violence in Baghdad in months.

The Islamic State of Iraq, which includes Al Qaeda in Iraq and other allied Sunni insurgent factions, boasted that its operative easily passed through checkpoints before detonating his explosives belt in a crowd of officers and recruits outside army headquarters Tuesday.

The bomber was able to "break all barriers" and strike "Shiite infidels and other apostates who were selling their religion," the group said in a statement posted on a militant website.

The Iraqi army's recruitment drive aimed to hire soldiers from of the country's poorest Shiite areas. The Islamic State of Iraq is a Sunni extremist group that considers Shiites heretics.

At least 125 people were wounded in Tuesday's attack, most them recruits clutching job applications as they waited outside the gate of the army headquarters for an appointment. Many rushed to get back in line after the blast, more desperate to get a job than to avoid the risk of a follow-up attack.

The bombing once again raised concerns about the Iraqi security forces' readiness to protect their country at a time when all but 50,000 U.S. troops are heading home.

Last year, President Barack Obama ordered the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 troops by Aug. 31.

The military says it is on pace to meet the deadline, and as of Friday, an estimated 52,000 U.S. soldiers were still in Iraq.