Scores killed and wounded as violence escalates in Iraq

Monday, June 20, 2005

Intense violent turmoil in Iraq continued Sunday and Monday when attacks across the country killed more than 80 people. A busy restaurant frequented by police officers was the target of the deadliest attack: a suicide bombing that claimed 23 lives and wounded more than 36 others.

"There were a number of policemen outside the restaurant having tea from Alaa, the tea man. There were two tables with chairs around them where the policemen were sitting. Then a suicide bomber came close to them and blew himself up," said a 29-year-old witness, Qusay Kaabi, according to the Washington Post. "It was a very loud explosion, and the restaurant was filled with smoke and dust."

The New York Times reported that, in an aura of resignation, older men just 80 yards away resumed curbside games of checkers even before workers finished cleaning away chunks of flesh. "It's Iraqis who die like this, not Americans," Muhammad Jasem, 25 and unemployed, told the Times. "We never saw this kind of thing before they came." In the capital city alone, more than 600 civilians have perished in the six weeks since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari named his Shiite-led cabinet on April 28.

In Tikrit on Sunday, a man killed himself and five Iraqis while targeting a U.S. military base in a car rigged with explosives. Early Monday, a suicide attacker in Ibril detonated his vehicle in a crowd of police recruits. Local officials confirm the blast killed 15 and wounded 100, some severely. The city was cited just yesterday by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as one of many relatively stable areas of the country.

The surge in violence has occurred while U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops battle insurgents near Karabilah on the Syrian border. British and American warplanes pounded targets to support a 1,000 Marine force. A Marine statement also said patrols in the devastated city of Fallujah came under attack Sunday. According to the statement, 15 insurgents were killed while the attack was repulsed.