Members of the Iraqi special forces parade during a ceremony marking police forces 92nd anniversary in the capital Baghdad. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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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.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.It is not clear whether a deal reached between Maliki's government and Sunni tribal leaders, under which the militants would withdraw and the army would stay outside Falluja, can end the struggle for the city 70 km (45 miles) west of Baghdad.Thousands of civilians streamed out of Falluja after ISIL and allied Sunni tribesmen overran police stations 10 days ago, but a few have returned in hopes that negotiations will avert a full-scale army assault on a city that endured two devastating U.S. offensives against Sunni insurgents there in 2004 .Nevertheless, civilians remained wary, with some believing that an army assault was still imminent."As soon as we heard the army was going to attack the city we became very worried because civilians will be the sacrifice," said Monzher Hazallah, head of a family of nine.He said masked gunmen had taken over Falluja, but it was not clear how many were ISIL fighters, suggesting that Maliki had emphasised the role of al Qaeda's role, rather than Iraqi Sunnis with grievances, to justify an attack on the city.
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