(c) 2009, The Washington Post
BAGHDAD, Iraq Two suicide bombers killed nearly 70 people Thursday in the bloodiest day in Iraq in several weeks.
Shortly after the explosions in Baghdad and Diyala province, Iraqi authorities said they had detained the head of al-Qaida in Iraq, who uses the alias Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
The assertion, made by Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, the spokesman for Iraq's security forces, was startling because many intelligence officials believe Baghdadi is a mythical figure created to give the Sunni insurgent organization an Iraqi face.
Iraqi authorities in the past have made similar claims that turned out to be incorrect.
The deadliest attack occurred west of Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, north of Baghdad. The bomber detonated explosives inside a restaurant in the town of Moqtadiya, said Lt. Col. Qassim Ali Nassir, an official at the provincial security center. At least 42 people were reportedly killed in that attack, including at least 26 Iranian pilgrims. Dozens more were wounded.
In Baghdad, a female suicide bomber detonated explosives near an Iraqi National Police checkpoint in central Baghdad, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 50, authorities said.
Sunni insurgents in recent weeks announced they would step up efforts to attack American troops and their allies in the Shiite-led Iraqi government. Since the announcement in March, a wave of suicide bombings across the country has renewed fears of a resurgence of violence.
The attacks come as the U.S. military is shutting down outposts to prepare for the first deadline of the phased withdrawal plan Iraqis mapped out during the negotiation of a bilateral agreement that became effective Jan. 1.
<I>Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, Aziz Alwan and Dalya Hassan contributed to this report.