BAGHDAD, Iraq,AP – Three suicide car bombings struck within an hour and two parked motorcycles exploded in northern Iraq on Thursday, while gunmen in speeding cars opened fire on a crowded market in Baghdad in a series of attacks that killed at least 38 people.
Continuing violence during the past days has claimed the lives of at least four children, two U.S. soldiers and a Sunni Muslim cleric, underscoring the rampant, random nature of an insurgency that has killed at least 810 people since the April 28 announcement of Iraq”s new Shiite-led government, according to an Associated Press count.
Twenty people were killed as a wide swath of northern Iraq was hit by three suicide bombings within an hour.
A restaurant in Tuz Khormato, 50 miles south of the northern city of Kirkuk, was struck during breakfast hours Thursday, killing at least 12 people, including a bodyguard of Iraq”s Kurdish deputy prime minister Rowsch Nouri Shaways, and wounding 40, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry and police.
The blast set ablaze eight cars in the restaurant”s parking lot, the focal point of a bloody, rubble-strewn scene that U.S. and Iraqi police quickly cordoned off. Shards of glass, shoes and splattered breakfast meals covered the restaurant”s floor as emergency workers raced around overturned tables and wooden chairs in a bid to treat the casualties. Ambulances and pickup trucks ferried bodies away.
Earlier in Kirkuk, a suicide car bomber targeting a convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers carrying civilian contractors killed four Iraqi bystanders, including a child, and wounded at least 11 others, said Dr. Bassam Mohammed of Kirkuk Emergency Hospital. None of the occupants in the convoy was injured, although one vehicle was damaged, the U.S. military said.
"My 5-year-old boy Ayad and I were passing by the car bomb exploded and the blast killed him," Robert Jerges, the child”s father, said. "Why did I lose my child? why did he deserve this?"
Another suicide bomber killed four people and wounded four in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police Col. Mudhafar Mohammed said. The victims included Hussein Alwan al-Tamimi, 41, deputy head of Iraq”s northeastern Diyala provincial council since January, and three of his bodyguards.
A new online posting purportedly by the al-Qaida group in Iraq has declared the creation of a new cell of suicide bombers called the "al-Bara bin Malek Brigade" and claimed it already has carried out a number of unspecified attacks. It wasn”t possible to verify the authenticity of the four-minute audiotape by a man claiming to be Abu Doujana al-Ansari, the head of the group.
Elsewhere, two parked motorcycles rigged with explosives detonated near a coffee shop frequented by policemen, killing five Iraqis, wounding 13 and destroying several shops in Mosul, police and hospital officials said.
Gunmen firing randomly from three speeding cars also killed nine Iraqis in a crowded market area in Baghdad, a Defense Ministry official said.
"There were no security targets there, they were all civilians," Defense Ministry spokesman Radhi Badir said.
The attack occurred in the ethnically mixed northwestern neighborhood of Hurriyah. Earlier this year, gunmen killed the governor of the Baghdad province and six of his bodyguards in a drive-by shooting in the neighborhood.
The massive explosion in Tuz Khormato tore apart the town”s Baghdad Restaurant, where bodyguards of the deputy prime minister were eating, police Brig. Sarhad Qadre said.
"I was sitting inside my restaurant when about six cars parked nearby and their passengers came inside and ordered food," said restaurant owner Ahmed al-Dawoudi. "Seconds later, I heard a big explosion and the restaurant was turned into twisted wreckage and rubble. Blood and pieces of flesh were everywhere."
Shaways was not at the restaurant at the time of the blast. Kurds, who want oil-rich Kirkuk to be part of their autonomous Kurdistan region, have been regularly targeted by insurgents.
Also Thursday, a roadside bomb blast forced a car off the road in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three passengers and wounding three others, Yarmouk Hospital Dr. Shebab al-Neimi.
Militants attacked an Iraqi police patrol with gunfire and a car bomb, killing a female bystander, plus wounding a civilian and a policeman in Baghdad”s southern Dora district, police Lt. Majid Zaki said. Police captured the insurgents and raided a car bomb-making workshop south of Baghdad.
Separately, the military announced the deaths of three soldiers, including two assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, who died Wednesday.
One was killed when a bomb struck the vehicle he was traveling, while the other died from enemy small-arms fire received in combat near Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad.
Another soldier, attached to Task Force Liberty, died of non-battle-related wounds Wednesday in Kirkuk, the military said. The incident is under investigation.
At least 1,666 U.S. military members have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In a bid to curb Iraq”s insurgency, Shiite leaders have been reaching out to Sunni Muslim insurgent groups believed responsible for multiple attacks.
But the country”s two main Sunni Muslim Arab organizations, angered over the recent arrest of one their leaders and an Iraq-led offensive against insurgents in Baghdad, threatened during a conference Thursday not to participate in drafting Iraq”s new constitution.
At least 700 "terrorists" have been captured and 28 killed four days into Operation Lightning, which involves 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said. An additional 118 criminal suspects were rounded up.
Among those detained in the Iraqi-led operation includes the suspected leader of the terror group, the National Islamic Resistance/1920 Revolution Brigade, Badir said. Badir did not reveal the detainee”s name, only referring to him as the "Prince of Abu Ghraib," a volatile western Baghdad district.
Anwar Abdel Karim Abdallah al-Sadun was captured with three other Baathists near Nasiriyah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, local council head Ali Hussein said.
He is the brother of Abdel Baqi Abdel Karim Abdallah al-Sadun, the former Baath Party regional command chairman and No. 40 on the most-wanted list of former Saddam Hussein regime figures.