Gunmen in two cars opened fire on a pickup truck carrying Col. Ahmed Abeis, the head of a police station in central Baghdad, killing him, his driver and a guard, police Col. Khazim Abbas said.
The white truck could be seen on the side of a road in Baghdad's southwestern Saidiyah neighborhood, its windows shattered and bullet-ridden. Weeping, a brother of Abeis picked up an empty shoe from the back of the blood-smeared vehicle. The bodies were taken to the morgue at Yarmouk hospital, officials and witnesses there said.
It was not known who shot the men, but Iraqi police and army troops as well as top Iraqi politicians are frequently targeted by insurgents who see them as collaborators with U.S. forces.
In other developments:
The latest violence came after authorities announced Wednesday they'd found 41 bodies at two sites in Iraq. Officials said some of the badly decomposed corpses are Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped and slain by insurgents. Others were civilians, including women and children who may have been killed because their families were seen as collaborators.
Also Wednesday, a suicide bomber in a garbage truck loaded with explosives and at least one gunman shot their way into a parking lot in a daring attempt at dawn to blow up a hotel used by Western contractors in Baghdad. At least four people, including the attackers and a guard, were killed.
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that 30 American contractors were among 40 people injured in the massive blast. No Americans were killed. In an Internet statement, al Qaeda in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on the Sadeer hotel, calling it the "hotel of the Jews."
Iraq's interim planning minister, Mahdi al-Hafidh, escaped death on Wednesday after gunmen opened fire on his convoy in the capital. Two of his bodyguards were killed and two others were wounded, he said.
"I'm fine, just sorry about the death of the guards, who were still young," he told state-run Al-Iraqiya TV. "It is a part of the crisis that Iraq is living, but we will keep going for the sake of Iraq, to get rid of terrorism and build a democratic country."
Two other car bombings were also reported. One targeted an American checkpoint outside a base in Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad. Another car bomb exploded near U.S. troops close to Abu Ghraib, just west of the capital.
No other details were available and the U.S. military could not be reached for comment.
One group of 26 dead were found late Tuesday in a field near Rumana, a village about 12 miles east of the western city of Qaim, near the Syrian border, police Capt. Muzahim al-Karbouli and other officials said.
Each of the bodies had been riddled with bullets — apparently several days earlier. They were found wearing civilian clothes and one was a woman, al-Karbouli said.
Authorities were led to the find by the stench of decomposing bodies.
South of Baghdad in Latifiya, Iraqi troops on Tuesday made another gruesome discovery, finding 15 headless bodies in a building inside an abandoned former army base, Defense Ministry Capt. Sabah Yassin said.
The bodies included 10 men, three women and two children. Their identities, like the others found in western Iraq, were not known, but they may have been slain because their husbands or families were viewed as collaborators.
Women are no longer safe even in traditionally minded Iraq. Decapitated bodies of women have begun turning up in recent weeks, a note with the word "collaborator" usually pinned to their chests. Three women were gunned down Tuesday in one of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods for being alleged collaborators.
Yassin said some of the dead men in Latifiya were thought to have been part of a group of Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped by insurgents in the area two weeks ago.
In the attack against the Sadeer hotel, al Qaeda in Iraq's "military wing" posted another Internet statement attributed to its leader, Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
It said it carried out extensive surveillance of the hotel and "we have fulfilled our vow to take down the Jews and Christians." In an alleged response on the same site, someone purporting to be al-Zarqawi replied that "you have relieved us by killing the enemy of God. God bless you."