Green Zone Is Hit By Barrage of Shells

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 10 -- More than two dozen mortar shells pounded the Green Zone on Tuesday, killing three people, including a U.S. military member, and injuring 18, among them five Americans, U.S. officials said.

The dead also included an Iraqi and a person of unknown nationality. Two of the wounded Americans were service members and three were contract employees, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

The attack, around 4 p.m., was the latest in a series of mortar and rocket strikes in recent months against the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and other Western missions along with Iraqi government buildings. In April, a suicide bomber attacked inside Iraq's parliament building.

A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "around 30" mortar shells had hit the Green Zone. "They got hammered," the official said.

U.S. military and Iraqi government officials have accused the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, of sending mortar and rocket fire into the Green Zone, although Sunni insurgents also are believed to use mortars.

On Tuesday morning, before the main barrage, one projectile landed inside the U.S. Embassy compound, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the information public.

People who live in the Green Zone have grown accustomed to mortar attacks, but many found the scope of Tuesday's attack particularly jarring, the diplomat said.

"Within a few hours they had everything cleaned up. It was like nothing happened," the diplomat said. "These attacks have been happening every other day and they are not being reported."

Westerners in the Green Zone, considered the safest part of the capital, "are realizing that they are being recklessly exposed to danger," the diplomat said. "They are getting angry."

A U.N. report last month found that mortar and rocket attacks into the Green Zone were rising and had become "increasingly concentrated and accurate." Between Feb. 19 and the end of May, at least 26 people were killed in Green Zone attacks, the report said.

In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two people and injured seven. Another roadside bomb struck a police patrol in the southwest neighborhood of Saydiya, killing two policemen and injuring four, police said.

Police also found 12 unidentified corpses across Baghdad, some showing signs of torture and shot in the head.

Special correspondent Dahlia Farooq in Baghdad and staff writer Robin Wright in Washington contributed to this report.

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