Fears of al-Qa'ida resurgence after bombs kill dozens in two Iraqi cities

Car bombs and suicide attackers striking Sunni Arab targets killed nearly 60 people in central and northern Iraq in a sign that al-Qai'da in Iraq is trying to make a comeback after suffering reverses at the end of last year. Most of the fighting in recent weeks has been between Iraqi government forces backed by the US against the Shia militia of the Mehdi Army.

The first explosion was in the provincial capital of Baquba, north-east of Baghdad, where a car parked at a restaurant blew up in front of the central court house and government offices. "I was on my way to the government office when a big explosion occurred," said a witness. "As I approached the site, I saw cars on fire, burnt bodies and damaged shops damaged with shattered glass everywhere."

Some 40 people were killed and 70 injured by the bomb, many of them people visiting the government offices, and petition writers in the street outside who help people fill in forms and file petitions. Black smoke rose from the centre of Baquba as cars caught fire.

The attack bears the hallmarks of an al-Qa'ida attack though al-Qa'ida has in the past usually attacked Shia areas with the aim of causing maximum civilian casualties. In February, two suicide bombers killed 99 people in bird markets in Shia areas.

In a sign that al-Qa'ida is not running out of volunteers to be suicide bombers, a man with a explosive vest on a motorcycle detonated himself outside a kebab restaurant in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. He killed 13 people, including three policemen and two children, and wounded a further 20 people.

Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a young mechanic, was in the restaurant at the time but escaped injury because he was sitting at a back table. He said that his cousin, who owned the restaurant, had been killed.

He added: "Pieces of flesh flew into the air," he said. "The roof fell over us. I saw the horrible sight of bodies without heads or without legs or hands."