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BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military recruiting center in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 21 people in an attack likely meant to send a message to the government and would-be army volunteers over the Iraqi troops' ongoing push to retake two cities overrun by al-Qaida militants.

The Baghdad attacker Thursday morning detonated his explosives outside the recruiting center in the Iraqi capital's central Allawi neighborhood as volunteers were waiting to register inside, a police official said. At least 35 people were wounded in the blast, he said.

The blast struck as an international rights group warned of the apparent use of indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian areas by Iraqi forces in their campaign to reassert control over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Al-Qaida-linked fighters overran parts of both cities in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province last week, seizing control of police stations and military posts, freeing prisoners and setting up their own checkpoints.

Iraqi troops, backed by pro-government Sunni militiamen, since have been clashing with the fighters and carrying out airstrikes against their positions in an effort to reassert control of the cities.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • Fdworfe
    January 9, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.

    It is an intriguing and worrisome fact of our planet’s civilization. Corrupted and failed states throughout the Middle East and Africa are absolutely unable or virtually unable to govern, defend, police, educate or feed themselves. There was in our history, a partial—if largely imperfect and now unacceptable—solution: colonizing. Yes, in some ways it was a process that worked, or at least functioned after a fashion until politically and economically corrupted. So, it’s a moral question without a solution about which the civilized world agonizes to no end. How can we in good conscience stand by and watch people impoverished, ignorant, sick, hungry, murdered, oppressed, on-and-on the misery goes? Then comes the answer: there is no real choice. When you march into a failed state, all its terrible baggage becomes yours. When you commit, you can’t simply un-commit. We’ve learned that lesson the hard way, many times over. We can only muddle through, and by definition, muddling through is far from perfection. Yeah, we’re hardened, in some respects dehumanized, but by evolution, not by choice.