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Suicide blasts kills 11 in Baghdad's Green Zone

world Updated: Apr 19, 2011 11:25 IST
Agencies
Baghdad

The first major attack in months at an entrance to the heavily fortified Green Zone killed 11 and wounded at least 19 on Monday as talk increased in Iraq's capital about whether the nation's leaders would ask US troops to stay beyond a year-end pullout deadline.

Two cars packed with explosives simultaneously detonated at a security checkpoint crowded with Iraqi parliament staffers. Police said the suicide attacks appeared to be targeted at convoys carrying Iraqi defense and political leaders, including a military commander who survived.

It was the second attempt on his motorcade this month. The speaker of Parliament said the other blast seemed to be aimed at one of his advisers. The adviser also survived, but six Iraqi army officers and bodyguards for both dignitaries were killed, as were the two bombers.

The four square mile Green Zone houses the largest US embassy in the world and thousands of American troops and contractors. None was injured in the Monday attack. The gate where the bombings occurred is most frequently used by Iraqi politicians, military officers and their staffs and by the Iraqi media.

The attacks heightened tensions in the Iraqi parliament after visits to Baghdad in the past two weeks by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and House Speaker John Boehner.

On Monday, it seemed as if those visits had provided an opening for at least some new public discussion among Iraqi officials about whether to extend an agreement to allow US troops to remain in the country next year.

All American troops are supposed to leave Iraq by Dec. 31, but Gates said the United States would consider any request to extend its military presence in the country. Whether Iraq makes such a request is almost entirely up to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who could face a domestic political backlash for doing so.

Since Gates' visit, Maliki has faced renewed pressure from Iranian backed Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr not to negotiate an extension. Sadr has threatened that his Mahdi Army militia, which contributed heavily to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war, could be reenergized if US troops do not leave as planned.

But lawmakers with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc made cautious pronouncements on Monday that some new agreement should be worked out before the end of the year, though they did not call outright for US troops to stay.

The newspaper Asharq al-Awsat also wrote that Maliki's statements on the topic had been cryptic and had created a sense of "mystery" about whether US troops might stay .

Speaking to reporters, Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi also criticized the Maliki-led government for failing for nearly four months to name ministers of defense or interior, saying the openings have created a vacuum at the highest levels of the country's key security ministries.

The interior ministry oversees the police force. Lt Col Hamid Mashkoor, who is in charge of security at the al-Harthiya gate, where the blasts occurred, said the military commander, from the mostly Sunni Abu Ghraib area south of the capital, appeared to be the primary target of the attack. He survived an attack earlier this month.

Maj Gen Ahmed EG al-Saedy, a Shiite, was in an armored convoy near the lead vehicle when it detonated.

In a statement on his Web site, Nujaifi identified the adviser who was near the second blast as Amjad Abul-Hamid Alduree. No one has asserted responsibility for the attack.

Violence seemed unrelenting in Baghdad on Monday, with two roadside bombs, two more stuck on vehicles of local officials and bloody attacks on a jewelry store and a police checkpoint. Two shop owners were killed and eight others, including a former member of Iraq's governing council, were injured in the attacks.