A suicide bombing ripped through a popular Baghdad kebab restaurant at lunchtime, killing at least 23 people and wounding 36 Sunday as insurgents stepped up attacks nationwide, defying two major U.S.-led offensives aimed at routing foreign fighters.
The bomber detonated a vest laden with explosives at about 2:45 p.m. in the Ibn Zanbour restaurant, just 400 yards from the main gate of the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The restaurant is especially popular with Iraqi police and soldiers, and there were seven police officers among the dead. The injured included 16 police officers and the bodyguards of Iraqi Finance minister Ali Abdel-Amir Allawi, police Lt. Col. Talal Jumaa said. The minister was not in the restaurant.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror group, claimed responsibility for the attack, and in a statement said the bomber blew himself up in a restaurant that was next door to the one where the victims died. The targets, according to the group, were police officers and what it called "spies and collaborators" who gathered there.
The statement also said the bomber was from the area of Iraq near the Syrian border targeted by a U.S. offensive over the past few days.
In other developments: The U.S. military also announced that a Marine died Saturday during Operation Spear, the first American death reported in the twin offensives. Elsewhere, militants staged attacks that killed at least 12 people, despite two joint U.S.-Iraqi offensives - operations Spear and Dagger - that began earlier this week with about 1,000 U.S. forces and Iraqi soldiers each. The Iraqi tribunal investigating members of Saddam Hussein's regime released a videotape showing testimony by the ousted dictator's cousin, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his alleged role in the 1988 chemical attack that killed thousands of Kurds. Ali Hassan al-Majid and seven other former officials were shown testifying before an investigating judge and signing statements. The tribunal did not say when the tape was made, but one of the documents signed by al-Majid was dated June 16. Insurgents exploded a water pipeline in the capital, and Mayor Alaa al-Timimi said the city of 5 million people would suffer a 24-hour
water shortage. In other violence, a suicide car bomber killed two Iraqi soldiers and two civilian employees as construction workers were fixing the gate at a security checkpoint in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown 80 miles north of Baghdad, Army Capt. Muhanad Ahmed said. Eight soldiers and four civilians were wounded in the attack. A bomb in a car parked near the Shiite al-Nawab mosque also exploded in the northern Baghdad suburb of Kazimiyah, killing one civilian and wounding 27 people, police Maj. Falah al-Muhammadawi said. Gunmen killed two Iraqi policemen in western Baghdad as they headed to work, while a second band of gunmen killed an electrical engineer going to work at an oil refinery in the capital.
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