Al-Qa'ida kills 45 in suicide bombings

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Suicide bombings killed 45 people and injured 46 others in a day of sustained violence in Iraq yesterday, while 27 mutilated corpses were discovered in a further example of the carnage sweeping through the country.

Al-Qai'da in Iraq, which had said it had carried out the hotel blasts in neighbouring Jordan, also claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack in Baghdad, one of the biggest in recent months.

A suicide bomber blew himself up after walking into a busy city centre restaurant, the Qaduri, killing 35 people and injuring 25 more, just after 9.40 in the morning. Seven of the dead were among a group of Iraqi policemen and soldiers having breakfast.

The scene in the aftermath of the blast was one of devastation with the emergency services dragging out bloody, dismembered bodies. One police officer, Rashid Ibrahim, said "We are collecting arms and legs. A lot of the wounded are in very bad state and may not survive."

Samiya Mohammed, who lives nearby, had rushed outside when she heard the explosion. She said "There was bodies, mostly civilians, and blood everywhere inside the place.

"They only targeted and hurt innocent people having their breakfast. There were no Americans in the area.I do not understand why most of the time it is the Iraqis who are killed".

An hour later another suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a queue at an army recruiting centre at Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit killing 10 and injuring 21 more.

The men were former members of the army who had been dismissed under the 'de-Baathification' programme instituted by the US authorities, but had since then been asked to rejoin in an attempt to bolster the Iraqi forces in face of unrelenting insurgency.

The claim by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qa'ida of carrying out the attacks in Jordan came in an Internet site normally used by the group. It said Jordan had been targeted because it had become "a backyard garden for the enemies of the religion, Jews and crusadersÉ.a filthy place for traitors and a centre of prostituition."

"These hotels were chosen because they became the favourite place for American and Israeli intelligence and other western European governments to carry out their invisible attacks, which they call the war on terror".

The Baghdad blasts took place just before Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived for a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The Iraqi government acknowledged that the suicide bombers in Amman may well have been Iraqis. Spokesman Laith Kuba said "We are not ruling out the participation of Iraqi elements because the al-Qa'ida organisation has become a plague that affected Iraq and is now transmitted by the same rats to other countries. A lot of Iraqis, especially former intelligence and army officers, joined this criminal cell."

There was, however, also the accusation that Jordan was partly paying the price for hosting former members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Members of the former Iraqi leader's family live in Amman.

Mr Kuba continued "I hope that these attacks will wake up the 'Jordanian street' to end their sympathy with Saddam's remnants ... who exploit the freedom in this country to have a safe shelter to plot their criminal acts against Iraqis."

"Before yesterday it's fairly clear there was some kind of sympathy for these fundamentalists in Jordan. It's a painful blow to all Jordanians and I hope it will be a wake-up call to ordinary people about what is really going on in Iraq, so they will know the reality of the fundamentalists and the terrorists."

Zarqawi, whose group is the most high profile of the insurgents operating in Iraq had repeatedly warned that attacks will be carried out in Jordan. The bombings in Amman are very similar to the ones regularly carried out in Iraq. Senior Interior Ministry sources in Baghdad said there had been indications that some Sunni fighters had recently crossed into Jordan to prepare for action.

Just before the attacks in Amman and Baghdad US army Major General Rick Lynch had declared "We believe we have al-Zarqawi on the ropes. We have indeed seen a reduction in the number of suicide attacks on Baghdad."

Afterwards, he said "Zarqawi still has the capability of recruiting suicide bombers, training those suicide bombers, and giving them munitions. That's what happened in Baghdad today and that's what happened in Jordan yesterday, and that will continue."

US forces carrying out a large operation at the town of Husabayah, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, claimed to have killed two al-Qa'ida leaders, named as Asadallah and Abu Zahra.The American military said that a number of civilians were killed by mistake in an air strike on a house thought to contain only insurgents.

The Iraqi government announced that it was offering seven million dollars in compensation for homes and vehicles destroyed during the American operation. It said more than 900 people have been forced to flee by the fighting.

Iraqi soldiers discovered 27 bodies, in civilian clothing, who appear to have been executed with shots to the head near Jassan, near the Iranian border.

Around 570 bodies have been found since the Iraqi interim government was formed in April last year. The killings are blamed on insurgents and unofficial 'death squads' allegedly run by the Iraqi security forces.