The explosions occurred around 9:45 a.m. local time when officers usually crowd the restaurant for breakfast. Police Maj. Abdel-Hussein Minsef said the bombers killed seven police officers and 26 civilians, making it one of the most deadly in the Iraqi capital in recent months. It is believed to be in retaliation for the U.S.-led operation against insurgents in Husbayah, a town along the Syrian border about 200 miles west of Baghdad.
In another separate attack on Thursday in Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a car bomb killed seven and injured 13 army recruits outside an Iraqi army recruiting center. According to Capt. Hakim al-Azawi, the men were former officers under Saddam who were recently invited to rejoin the military.
On Wednesday night, two car bombs exploded near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing another six people. Another suicide bomb attack 35 miles northeast of Baghdad in the town of Baqouba killed five policemen.
The attacks came just before British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived in Iraq to meet with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.
In northern Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces continue military operations to root out insurgents along the Syrian border. U.S. forces on Thursday announced that two leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq were killed during a six-day operation in Husaybah.
The military said it killed Asadallah, a “senior al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist leader and foreign fighter facilitator” and Abu Zahra, an assistant to al-Qaida in Iraq’s leader in Husaybah.
The operation in Husaybah is part of a strategy to stop foreign fighters and weapons from flowing into Iraq. Maj. Gen. Rich Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, said U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed 37 insurgents, arrested 165 suspected insurgents and captured 28 weapons caches.
Lynch said the operation along the Syrian border has played a large role in reducing the number of suicide attacks in Baghdad. “We believe we have (al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi on the ropes,” Lynch said.
In other parts of Iraq, dead bodies turn up with alarming regularity. In the town of Jassan, near the Iranian border, Iraqi soldiers found the bodies of 27 people wearing civilian clothes who had been handcuffed and blindfolded. They had been shot in the head, said an army Col. Ali Mahmoud.