- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber walked calmly into a popular Baghdad kebab restaurant at lunchtime yesterday and killed at least 23 persons eating plates of lamb and rice — the deadliest attack in the capital in just over six weeks.

A total of at least 46 persons died in terrorist violence across the country yesterday despite twin U.S.-Iraqi offensives against militant smuggling routes and training centers west and north of Baghdad.

The American military announced the death of the first U.S. Marine since the operations, code-named Spear and Dagger, began Friday and Saturday, respectively, in Anbar province. About 1,000 U.S. forces and Iraqi soldiers are taking part in each offensive.

U.S. Marines also reported killing 15 insurgents in battles near Fallujah, the Anbar province town 40 miles west of Baghdad and a perennial insurgent stronghold.

Meanwhile, the tribunal that will hear the case against former dictator Saddam Hussein and key members of his ousted regime released videotape of the deposed leader’s cousin — the man known as “Chemical Ali” because of his role in the 1988 poison-gas attack that killed at least 5,000 persons in the Kurdish town of Halabja.

Ali Hassan al-Majid was one of eight former regime officials shown testifying before an investigative magistrate. The video recording by the Iraqi Special Tribunal had no sound, but showed al-Majid signing a document dated June 16.

The tribunal has set no trial dates for any former regime official, including Saddam, who was shown on a video released by the panel earlier this month.

The Baghdad bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest at a restaurant 400 yards from the main gate of the heavily fortified green zone, where the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government have their headquarters. The cafe was popular with Iraqi police and soldiers.

The dead included seven police officers. The bodyguards of Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Abdel-Amir Allawi and 16 other police were injured, police and hospital officials said. The minister was not in the restaurant.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice predicted no quick end to the fighting.

“They’re going to continue to suffer, I’m afraid, for some time from these insurgents and terrorists, who wish to just kill innocent Iraqis because they have no other alternative. But that does not mean that they are going to win the battle for Iraq,” she said on Fox television.

Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror group, al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility and said the attacker was from Qaim, near the westernmost of the two joint U.S.-Iraqi offensives. The statement appeared on an Islamic Web site, and its authenticity couldn’t be verified.

The suicide attack was the deadliest in Baghdad since May 7, when two suicide car bombers plowed into an American security company convoy, killing at least 22 persons.

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