BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber killed 23 Iraqi army recruits and wounded 36 in Baghdad on Thursday, officials said, in an attack on men volunteering to join the government's struggle to crush al Qaeda-linked militants in Anbar province.
Brigadier General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Baghdad Security Operations Centre which coordinates among military, police and other security organizations, said the bomber had blown himself up among the recruits at the small Muthanna airfield, used by the army in the Iraqi capital.
Maan put the death toll at 22 but health ministry officials said morgue records showed 23 had been killed.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he would eradicate the "evil" of al Qaeda and its allies.
Fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is also at the forefront of Syria's civil war, last week seized control of Falluja and parts of Ramadi, capital of Iraq's western Anbar province.
The Shi'ite-led government has asked for volunteers to join the military effort against al Qaeda, which has regained strength in Sunni-dominated areas such as Anbar partly by exploiting widespread Sunni resentment over Maliki's policies.
Bloodshed in Iraq has returned to its highest level in five years, with the United Nations reporting 8,868 people killed in 2013 – a surge of violence partly fuelled by the war in Syria.
Also on Thursday, police said a car bomb exploded near a local health department building in the city of Tikrit, north of Baghdad and hometown of deposed Sunni leader Saddam Hussein. An ambulance driver was killed and five other people wounded.