Dozens killed as bombers target Baghdad restaurant

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The Independent Online

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves at a restaurant frequented by Baghdad police, killing at least 33 people and seriously injuring 19.

The bombers struck at about 9.45 a.m., when officers usually stop by the restaurant for breakfast. Police Maj. Abdel-Hussein Minsef said three police officers and six civilians were killed in the blast and 24 others injured, among them 20 civilians.

The blasts came just before the British Foreign Secretary Straw was expected in the country for a meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Samiya Mohammed, a housewife who lives nearby, said: "This is a criminal act that only targeted and hurt innocent people having their breakfast," she said. There were no Americans in the area, she said.

"I do not understand why most of the time it is the Iraqis who are killed," she added.

At about the same time a car bomb detonated in the middle of a group of men outside an Iraqi army recruiting center in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, killing seven and injuring 13, police Capt. Hakim al-Azawi said.

The men were former officers under Hussein who were recently invited to rejoin the military to help fill out the ranks, Azawi said.

Also today, the US military said that its troops in western Iraq killed two suspected al-Qa'ida leaders during an operation against a town on the Syrian border.

US and Iraqi forces have been carrying out a large operation in the town of Husaybah, on the Syrian border about 200 miles west of Baghdad. Officials believe the town has become a major transit point for foreign fighters and weapons entering Iraq.

In a statement released today, US forces said they could confirm that two alleged regional terrorists were killed during the operation. The were identified as Asadallah and Abu Zahra.

Asadallah allegedly was "a senior al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist leader and foreign fighter facilitator" who led several terrorist cells, the statement said. Abu Zahra was reportedly a close personal friend and assistant to the head of the al-Qaida in Iraq operation in Husaybah, the military said.

The US military reported yesterday that some Iraqi civilians were killed in Husaybah when a US jet attacked a house used by insurgents last Monday, not realizing noncombatants were also inside.

A Marine statement quoted a local Iraqi as saying insurgents forced their way into the home, killed two residents and then locked remaining family members in a room.

"The group then used the home to launch an attack against Iraqi and US forces clearing the area," the statement said. "Subsequently, the house was destroyed by coalition aircraft."

Five bodies were found in the rubble, the statement added. A man and a young girl were rescued and evacuated for medical treatment.

Kubba said the military operations were intended to spread the power of the government ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections and controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

"The government is in a decisive war and we will continue regardless to how long it's going to take," Kubba said. "We think that they will increase their criminal acts more than what they are doing now and we will never change our policy against them or against those who give them the shelter."

Two car bombs exploded last night near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing six people, police said. Five policemen were killed when a suicide car bomber struck a patrol near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.