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Baghdad's Green Zone Turns Red

Afif Sarhan, IOL Correspondent

April 2, 2008

BAGHDAD Ś With volleys of mortars and rockets raining down on a daily basis for weeks, the Green Zone, home to the government seat and US and UK embassies, is increasingly loosing its reputation as Baghdad most secured district.

"We wake and sleep everyday scared that any time a rocket might fall over our heads," an employee in a foreign embassy told IslamOnline.net, asking not to be named.

"We can see in the faces of many militaries inside the Green Zone that even they are worried about the situation."

The high-security area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad is home to the government seat, a complex of presidential palaces, US and British embassies and office of major US consulting companies.

It is protected by numerous armed checkpoints, coils of razor wire and chain link fences and surrounded by reinforced and blast-proof concrete slabs.

Two US officials and two Iraqi guards of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi have been killed since Sunday inside the Green Zone.

Observers say the attacks are becoming more well-planed by the passing of each day, coming closer to military centers, government complexes and diplomat offices.

The atmosphere is tense that many diplomats have cabled their countries about the risk in staying inside the Green Zone, now nicknamed the "Green-Reddish Zone" in a reference to the blood painting its streets.

The US Embassy's press office declined to speak about actual incidents and just said the Green Zone is and will continue to be the safest place in Iraq.


Residents are feeling increasingly venerable in an area supposed to be the only, totally secure zone in Iraq.

"My family has not gone out from home for a week," Ibraheem Jumaa, 43, a resident of the fortified Green Zone, told IOL.

"We are scared to enter and leave the zone fearing a terrorist attack at the checkpoints or the entrance. Even the extensive concrete barriers around the Green Zone have become useless to the new potential acquired by attackers."

The fortified area has recently come under stronger, bolder rocket and mortar attacks.

"Warning alarms in the Green Zone, the most shelled 10 square kilometers of Baghdad, give about three seconds to find shelter in one of the numerous concrete bunkers," a US military officer told IOL on condition of anonymity.

"Many times it is too short to protect from attacks that are each day more closer to its targets."

The high-profile Green Zone has long been a target but the intensity of attacks in recent weeks raised many questions.

US commanders say the rocket fire originates from Sadr City, a bastion of the Mehdi Army militia of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in eastern Baghdad.

A senior militant for Sadr militia seemed to claim credit.

"We are just making tests. Much more damage can be caused by our weapons," he said.

"We will use them in right time to show that the US military is unable to secure not only the Green Zone but all Iraq and maybe they decide that the best thing to do is leave our country for Muslims to govern."

But military expert and Ministry of Defense senior officer Lt. Col. Mohammad Saeed believes Sunni and Shiite fighters, both intent on weakening the government and US military power, might have carried out the attacks.

"For several months there has been an escalation of guerrilla attacks against the Green Zone," he said.

"Missiles have been launched from the eastern part of Baghdad and in particular from an area far from the center like Sadr City where Iran is supplying armed groups with more powerful Katyushas and the precision Hawn 170," added the expert.

"But Sunni insurgents are also being equipped by Al-Qaeda with high potential weapons and rockets," he noted.

"Both groups are with the same aim to destroy the current power and force US troops out from Iraq."

:: Article nr. 42673 sent on 02-apr-2008 19:27 ECT


Link: www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1203758601721&pagename=Zon

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