Two suicide bombers struck a popular restaurant in Baghdad and an army recruiting center north of the capital Thursday, killing at least 40 people and injuring three dozen more, police and witnesses said.
The Baghdad bombing occurred about 9:30 a.m. during the breakfast rush at a restaurant frequented by police and local guards, neighbors and witnesses said.
The two blasts followed a pattern of attacks against Iraqi army and police personnel and facilities in the last year and a half that have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and recruits, most of whom are from Iraq's majority Shiite Arab community. Many of the attacks have been staged by Sunni Arab insurgents.
The morning explosion at the Qadouri Restaurant, a Baghdad institution famous for its local cuisine, particularly a special Baghdadi breakfast porridge, killed 35 people and wounded at least 25, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman, Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman.
Police and witnesses said the bomber apparently wore an explosive vest.
"The moment he entered the restaurant, he blew up himself," said Uday Mohammed, 28, a worker at the restaurant who sat at the entrance weeping for 12 co-workers he said were killed in the explosion. "This is hell all over us."
Neighbors of the restaurant said it had been threatened several times because it was so popular with police officers and soldiers.
"We expected this disaster. Every day, I told the policemen not to eat among the civilians, but they didn't care and said all Iraq is targeted, not only our restaurant," Mohammed said.
A second suicide blast occurred at 11:30 a.m. when a man exploded his car outside an army recruiting center in Tikrit, about 90 miles north of the capital, according to Maj. Abdul Jabbar Hussein, a secretary to the provincial governor. At least five people were killed and 11 injured, police and hospital officials said. Samir Nadhum Qaisi, a doctor at Tikrit General Hospital, said three of the wounded were in critical condition with head and stomach wounds.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that asserted responsibility for Wednesday's triple hotel bombing in Amman, said it was also responsible for the Qadouri attack. The group is headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian.
A message posted on a Web site often used by al Qaeda in Iraq said one of its members "blew himself up among the apostates of police, perfidy brigades and the guards of the Palestine Hotel in Qadouri Restaurant." It said the "operation came after monitoring the place and making sure the people who attended it were servants of the Crusaders."
The restaurant sits about 500 yards north of the Sheraton and Palestine hotels, where numerous Western journalists and contractors reside and where a suicide bomber in a cement truck packed with explosives killed 16 people on Oct. 24. Al Qaeda in Iraq earlier asserted responsibility for that blast.
The Internet message said Thursday's restaurant bombing "came as revenge for the Sunnis in Qaim," a reference to people killed during an Iraqi and U.S. military offensive near Qaim, a town on the border with Syria about 200 miles west of Baghdad.
A senior U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, told reporters that during the offensive, called Operation Steel Curtain, which began last week, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed 37 insurgents, including 15 foreign fighters, and detained about 185 suspected terrorists, including three foreigners. One U.S. soldier was killed and nine injured, he said. Occupation troops found 23 weapons caches and 42 mines and improvised explosive devices, he said.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported Thursday that Iraqi troops discovered 27 bodies in southern Iraq, near the border with Iran. The victims were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs and shot, Reuters said.
Special correspondent Salih Saif Aldin in Tikrit contributed to this report.