U.S. officials have begun building vehicle barriers and blast walls to protect Iraqi army recruits at 12 recruiting centers throughout Iraq, in an effort to prevent the high-profile attacks that have hit the centers in the past.

According to the Multi-National Security Transition Command –Iraq, which trains and equips Iraqi security forces, barriers at six of the 12 sites have already been completed.

Long lines of young men waiting to join the Iraqi security forces have always been an attractive target for insurgent suicide bombers. The large gatherings were relatively unprotected, and the attacks caused many potential recruits to think twice.

Among the worst such incidents were bombings in Basra and Muthanna last year, and a 2006 bombing in Ramadi that killed 27 Iraqi police recruits, two Iraqi soldiers and two U.S. soldiers who were running the recruiting drive.

"The attacks [against] recruiting centers [by] insurgent groups made potential recruits shy away from serving their country to help build peace and stability," El Salvadoran Army Lt. Col. Samuel Ruiz, of the security transition command, said in a statement issued by the U.S. military. "Once a safe environment is established, it will bring back attention from those who are enthusiastic to be enrolled."

The vehicle barriers and traffic weavers, or "chicanes" as the military referred to them, are made from Hesco barriers — stackable wire baskets filled with dirt or sand.

The barriers are "set up in a zig-zag pattern, designed to contain the explosive force of potential suicide bombers and prevent [car bomb] attacks against the new recruits," the news release read. "The chicanes are being installed at the locations where the new recruits gather to be searched before entry into the secure area."

Most of the attacks have been carried out by suicide bombers who stand in the line of recruits; in those cases, the barriers could lessen the impact of a bomb, but not entirely.

The new barriers make the recruiting centers "hard targets, thus lowering their odds of being attacked, since the enemy prefers to attack soft targets," a U.S. official was quoted as saying.

The new barriers are being put in place at "critical" recruiting centers in the north, central and south regions of Iraq. The sites are in Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Baqouba, Muthanna, Kirkush, Habbaniyah, Hillah, Diwaniyah, Amara, Basra and Tallil, officials said.

Iraqi contractors have been hired to do the work.

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