The U.S. military on Monday turned over security to Iraqi forces in Shiite-dominated Karbala, the eighth of 18 provinces to revert to Iraqi control since the U.S. invasion.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the southern province of Basra's security file would be transferred to the Iraqis in mid-December. The British-led forces overseeing the area already have begun drawing down and pulled back from the center of the provincial capital to the airport on the outskirts.
"This is the proof of the strong will and resolve of the good citizens of this nation," al-Maliki said at the handover ceremony in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. "The reconstruction of Iraq does not hinge on security alone, but security is the key to everything."
The move came on the same day that a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up in a crowd of police recruits northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 27 people. The recruits in Baqouba were waiting to be allowed inside the camp for the day's training when the bomber rode into their midst, according to a police officer who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
A 22-year-old Sunni man from Baqouba's central Tahrir area told the AP he was among a group of some 60 recruits when the blast struck.
Akram Salman said it must have been an inside job because the suicide bomber apparently penetrated heavy security surrounding the police camp without being searched.
He said police failed to stop the bomber when he changed course suddenly from the main road toward the recruits.
Mohammed al-Kirrawi, a doctor at the Baqouba general hospital, said most of the victims were struck by iron balls packed with the explosives to achieve maximum casualties. He said the hospital lacked the necessary equipment to save many of the wounded.
"Among the wounded, there are seven in critical conditions and there is little hope that they will survive," he said.
On Sunday, meanwhile, 10 anti-al-Qaida tribal sheiks - seven Shiites and three Sunnis - from Diyala were kidnapped in the predominantly Shiite district of Shaab in Baghdad while driving home after a meeting with the government in the capital.
The abducted sheiks were returning to Diyala province after attending a meeting with the Shiite-dominated government's adviser for tribal affairs to discuss coordinating efforts against al-Qaida in Iraq when they were seized, police and a relative said.
The U.S. military, citing intelligence sources, said Arkan Hasnawi, a former brigade commander in the Mahdi Army militia, was responsible for the abductions.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press