Suicide Bombings in Iraq Kill 33
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Two suicide bombers blew themselves up Thursday in a restaurant frequented by police, killing at least 33 people and seriously injuring 19, while a car bomb killed seven army recruits in Saddam Hussein’s hometown, police said.
The suicide bombers struck at about 9:45 a.m., when officers usually stop in for breakfast. Police Maj. Abdel-Hussein Minsef said seven police officers and 26 civilians were killed in the blast, and 24 others were injured, including 20 civilians.
The blasts came just before British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was expected to arrive in the country for a meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the government said.
Samiya Mohammed, who lives nearby, said she rushed outside when she heard the explosion and found ``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.
No Americans were in the area, Mohammed said.
``I do not understand why most of the time it is the Iraqis who are killed,″ she added.
A car bomb in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, detonated amid a group of men outside an Iraqi army recruiting center, killing seven and injuring 13, police Capt. Hakim al-Azawi said. The men were former officers under Saddam who were recently invited to rejoin the military to help fill out its ranks, he said.
Iraqi soldiers found the bodies of 27 people near the Iranian border Thursday, 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 found near Jassan, 130 miles southeast of Baghdad, army Col. Ali Mahmoud said.
Groups of dead bodies turn up with alarming regularity in Iraq. Officials suspect that death squads from the Shiite majority or the Sunni minority are responsible for the killings.
Since the interim government was formed April 28, at least 566 bodies have been found _ 204 in Baghdad, according to an Associated Press count. The identities of many are unknown, but 116 are known to be Sunnis, 43 Shiites and one Kurd. Some are likely victims of crime _ including kidnappings _ rampant in some cities and as dangerous to Iraqis as political violence.
U.S. troops in western Iraq killed two al-Qaida in Iraq leaders during an operation in a town on the Syrian border, a military statement said Thursday.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting an operation in 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.
U.S. forces said two alleged regional terrorists were killed _ 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 reportedly was a close friend and assistant to al-Qaida in Iraq’s leader in Husaybah, the military said.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, said U.S. and Iraqi forces in Husaybah killed 37 insurgents, arrested 165 suspected insurgents and captured 28 weapons caches.
``We have indeed seen a reduction in the number of suicide attacks in Baghdad,″ Lynch said, adding that he believed the operation along the Syrian border was an important factor. ``We believe we have (al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi on the ropes.″
A government spokesman said Iraq has dedicated $7 million to compensate families in Husaybah for their houses and cars and $35 million for governmental buildings and infrastructure projects. He said more than 900 people have been forced from their homes by fighting.
The U.S. military reported Wednesday that some Iraqi civilians were killed in Husaybah when a U.S. jet attacked a house used by insurgents 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 U.S. 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.
Two car bombs exploded Wednesday 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.
Police in the northern city of Kirkuk said the brother of a leading Sunni Arab politician was kidnapped Tuesday by gunmen in army uniforms. Hatam Mahdi al-Hassani is the brother of parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani. Sunni insurgents have threatened members of their community who participate in politics, but Iraq also has numerous criminal gangs involved in kidnappings.
In Ukraine, Defense Minister Anatoliy Grytsenko said his country’s remaining 876 troops have completed their mission in Iraq and are ready to come home.
``The military mission is over and now is the time for diplomats, industry workers and businessmen to have their word,″ Grytsenko said after returning from Iraq. Ukraine began withdrawing troops in March and all are due home by Dec. 30.
The former Soviet republic strongly opposed the U.S.-led war but later agreed to send 1,650 troops _ a move that was deeply unpopular at home. During Ukraine’s involvement, 18 of its soldiers were killed and 32 were injured.