Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a restaurant frequented by Baghdad police yesterday, killing at least 33 people and seriously injuring 19, while a car bomb killed seven army recruits in Saddam Hussein's hometown, police said.
Iraq's al-Qaeda said yesterday that it had carried out the restaurant attack, according to an Internet statement.
"A lion from our martyrs' brigade embedded himself among the infidel police and security forces in the restaurant," said the statement on an Islamist site often used by the group.
The statement, which could not be immediately verified, said the attack was part of an al-Qaeda campaign to avenge a raid by US and Iraqi forces on suspected militant strongholds in Qaim.
The bombers struck at 9:45am, when officers usually stop by the restaurant for breakfast. Police Major Abdel-Hussein Minsef said seven police officers and 26 civilians were killed in the blast and 24 others injured, among them 20 civilians.
The blasts came just before British Foreign Secretary Straw was expected in the country for a meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister's office said.
Samiya Mohammed, a housewife who lives nearby, said she rushed outside when she heard the explosion.
"I went out to see the restaurant heavily damaged. There was bodies, mostly civilians, and blood everywhere inside the place. 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 said.
A car bomb in former president Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 130km north of Baghdad, detonated in the middle of a group of men outside an Iraqi army recruiting center, killing seven and injuring 13, a police official said.
Iraqi soldiers found the bodies of 27 people near the Iranian border yesterday, an Iraqi officer said, adding that they appeared to have been dead for several days.
The victims were bound, shot in the head and wearing civilian clothes when they were found near Jassan, 210km southeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Army Colonel Ali Mahmoud said. The identities of the victims were not immediately known.
US troops in western Iraq killed two leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq during an operation against a town on the Syrian border, a military statement said yesterday.
In a statement released yesterday morning, US forces said they could confirm that two alleged regional terrorists were killed during the operation. The were identified as Asadallah and Abu Zahra.
Meanwhile, the court trying Saddam Hussein and seven former aides can appoint new defense lawyers if the current attorneys fail to turn up for the next hearing, the government spokesman said.
"Defense lawyers have said they will boycott the next court hearing scheduled for November 28. The High Tribunal is the only one able to rule on this, and is free to appoint other lawyers or choose any other solution," Leith Kubba told a news conference.
"As a government, we back the judicial process underway, and what has recently happened changes nothing to our stand," he said.
The murder of two defense lawyers in the trial has threatened to unravel the proceedings, with lawyers representing Saddam and his co-defendants calling for better protection.
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