|An Iraqi soldier steps through the wreckage and blood stained floor of a restaurant in Baghdad |
A suicide-bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives, blew himself up at a Baghdad restaurant popular with Iraqi police and army personnel, killing at least 23 people. The attack comes as the U.S. military continues with two major offensives near the Syrian border intended to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
The restaurant attack took place just a few hundred meters away from the Green Zone, the heavily-fortified compound in central Baghdad that houses Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies.
Security is tight in the area because of the threat of car-bombs. But in this case, officials say, the bomber wore a vest laden with explosives, and simply walked into the restaurant filled with police and army personnel.
Insurgents have killed more than 1,000 people since Iraq's interim government was formed in late April, many of them in suicide attacks. Police and recruits to Iraq's fledgling army are often the target of the insurgents.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting two major offensives near the Syrian border, called Operations Spear and Dagger.
Speaking before the offensives, Brigadier General Donald Alston described Syria as the main source outside Iraq of both foreign fighters and material used to supply the insurgency.
"There is a history of old smuggling routes that make it a great challenge for how people find their way into Iraq," he said. "You have tribal distributions that straddle the borders that contribute to, or facilitate supplies and foreign fighters, perhaps, coming into the country. The Syrian border problem, I think, we quantify as the worst problem."
Officials say about 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops are involved in each offensive.
Operation Spear is taking place in the predominantly desert province of Anbar, where much of the fighting revolves around the city of Karabilah.
Operation Dagger is aimed at the marshy regions northwest of Baghdad, where officials say militant training camps have been based. Officials say about 60 militants have been killed and 100 others captured in the campaigns.