Bloody Message From Iraq:
Nowhere Is Safe
By Patrick Cockburn
14 April, 2007
is safe. Insurgents struck in the heart of the Green Zone yesterday,
one of the most heavily defended places in Baghdad. The symbolism -
and the bloody message - was clear with this attack on the home to the
A suicide bomber cleared
at least eight rings of security to blow himself up in the Iraqi parliament,
killing eight people including three lawmakers as they were eating lunch.
It was the most deadly attack mounted from within the Green Zone.
In a separate attack, the
Iraqi capital was cut in two as one of the main bridges over the Tigris
was blown up earlier in the day.
The Green Zone bombing was
not only an assault on democracy. It was intended to undermine President
George Bush's troop "surge", which is denounced as a sham
by so many Iraqis.
But even Iraqis hardened
to violence were shocked by the bloody scene in parliament. "I
saw a ball of fire and heard a huge, loud explosion," said one
witness. "There were pieces of flesh floating in the air."
The bodyguard of a Sunni
member of parliament is suspected of detonating a vest packed with explosives
in the restaurant beside the chamber where parliament meets. The success
of a suicide bomber in penetrating one of the most tightly guarded buildings
in the world could only have happened if he had help from other security
men. The Iraqi parliament is well inside the heavily fortified Green
Zone and is protected by eight layers of security, including at least
three checks for explosives.
President Bush condemned
the attack saying: "It reminds us that there is an enemy willing
to bomb innocent people in a symbol of democracy."
The bombing is likely to
increase scepticism that the two-month old American campaign to get
control of Baghdad, the "surge", is achieving very much.
The suicide bombing is one
of the most dramatic demonstrations of the extent to which the Sunni
insurgents have infiltrated the government's own security apparatus.
Other recent examples include the serious wounding of the deputy prime
minister Salam al-Zubaie on 23 March by a bomber who got near him with
the connivance of his own bodyguards.
The 275-member Iraqi parliament
meets on the first floor of a cavernous building, originally built by
Saddam Hussein to hold meetings of Islamic nations. Immediately outside
the assembly hall is a restaurant. It was there, beside the cash register,
that the bomber blew himself up.
The sensitivity of the US
and the Iraqi government to the breach in security was apparent because
all television cameras and video tapes showing the immediate aftermath
of the blast were confiscated and handed to US authorities.
The only footage to be shown
was by al-Hurra channel, shot seconds after the attack, it showed a
dusty hallway with people screaming for help. One man is shown slumped
in the dust.
Mohammed Abu Bakr, the head
of media at the parliament, said: "I saw two legs in the middle
of the cafeteria and none of those killed or wounded lost their legs,
which means they must be the legs of the suicide attacker."
Of the three members of parliament
to die, two were from Sunni parties and one from the Shia alliance.
Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, said
the explosion "underlines the failure of the government security
"The plan is 100 per
cent a failure," said Mr al-Ilyan. "It's a complete flop.
The explosion means instability and the lack of security has reached
the Green Zone, which the government boasts is heavily fortified."
Shia and Kurdish members
of parliament have long claimed the bodyguards of Sunni politicians
are infiltrated by insurgents. Some 92 per cent of Iraq's five million
strong Sunni community say they support armed resistance against the
The Green Zone itself is
four miles square in the centre of Baghdad. It is heavily defended but
some 5,000 Iraqis live inside it. It is defended by a mixture of soldiers,
private security personel and bodyguards of uncertain loyalty. Some
weeks ago, the US military said they had found two suicide vests inside
In the US, leaders tried
to give the impression that the "surge" was going ahead as
planned and is, in any case, only in its initial stages.
"We've said there are
going to be good days and bad days concerning the security plan,"
said the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Senator John McCain, the
Republican presidential candidate, who visited Baghdad earlier in the
month, said the US security plan was beginning to show modest results.
He said "spectacular" attacks like that yesterday on parliament
were aimed at grabbing headlines. He had earlier claimed that the media
were exaggerating the collapse of security in Baghdad.
In the second attack yesterday,
a truck bomb exploded on the al-Sarafiya bridge over the Tigris, which
links east and west Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and injuring
"A huge explosion shook
our house and I thought it would demolish our house," said Farhan
al-Sudani, a Shia businessman who lives near by. "Me and my wife
jumped immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and took them
Some 20 people who were in
cars that crashed into the river after the blast were still missing
last night. Among the 10 confirmed dead were four policemen whose patrol
car fell into the river. All that was left of the steel bridge, built
by the British authorities 75 years ago, was twisted girders.
Although President Bush has
been seeking to blame Iran for supporting the insurgency in Iraq there
is little evidence for that. The great majority of attacks on US forces
are by Sunni guerrillas in Sunni districts. There have been battles
with Shia militia but these have been intermittent. Muqtada al-Sadr,
the leader of the Mehdi Army, the largest Shia militia, has stood down
his men and told them to avoid a confrontation with US forces.
The US is gradually increasing
its forces to 173,000 by sending in five new brigades as part of the
new security plan. But there is little sign the additional troops are
altering the political and military balance in Iraq. The Sunni rebellion
is continuing and is still highly effective.
Meanwhile, the Shia are increasingly
hostile to the US occupation and Mr Sadr staged large anti-US demonstrations
in the holy city of Najaf last weekend. So far, the US has balked at
large confrontations with the Shia militias in Baghdad.
A citadel under siege
Using shoulder-launched missiles,
Iraqi insurgents strike the Al Rashid Hotel, often frequented by US
military and government figures Only one of the rockets hits its target,
which stands less than 500 yards from the concrete blast walls that
surround the area, but the attack is a propaganda coup.
The first suicide bombing
inside the Green Zone occurred when two bombers smuggled explosives
into the area and detonated them in the north-eastern corner of the
enclave. The blast tore through the Green Zone's bazaar, killing 10
people including four Americans.
A mortar attack killed four
employees of Global Risk Strategies, a British security firm, and wounded
at least 12. The company later announced the four were former Gurkhas.
Insurgents managed to strike
the US embassy in the Green Zone by firing a salvo of rockets, killing
two Americans and wounding a further four. The attack came on the eve
of elections, striking a blow against the Iraqi government.
Iraq's parliamentary speaker,
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, narrowly avoided assassination after a bomb tore
through one of his cars as it passed through the Green Zone.
Amid reports from the US
Army that insurgents were stepping up mortar attacks on the Green Zone,
a suicide bomber passed through security checkpoints undetected on 23
March and was able to detonate his belt next to Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie,
Iraq's deputy prime minister, as he left afternoon prayers. Nine people
were killed although, remarkably, Mr Zubaie survived. The attack came
a day after a rocket attack on the Green Zone forced the UN secretary
general, Ban Ki-moon, to duck behind a podium for cover.
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