Green Zone is taking more hits
The U.S. military acknowledged Wednesday that insurgents are firing more mortar rounds and rockets into Baghdad’s Green Zone, a former haven that now is rocked almost daily by explosions.
At a news conference, Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox refused to disclose the number of attacks, saying he did not want to “give the people shooting any indication of how effective they might be.”
But he added, “There is unquestionably an increasing pattern of attacks against the International Zone. There’s no doubt about that.”
In a report this month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone, where the United Nations has its Iraq headquarters, had totaled 17 in March, 30 in April and 39 by May 22.
The attacks have killed at least 26 people since Feb. 19, the report says.
Ban report says the risk of incoming fire is so great that U.N. staff have been temporarily moved to safer quarters better able to withstand strikes.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Qassim Musawi underscored the problem of preventing the attacks, which strike homes, streets, the parliament building and even politicians’ gardens. He said that the rockets and mortar shells often are fired from residential areas and that military strikes on such areas would lead to many civilian casualties.
This week, soldiers discovered six rockets stashed in a schoolyard in one Baghdad neighborhood. They made the find while investigating an area suspected of being the point of origin for rocket fire against the Green Zone, which officially is known as the International Zone.
The enclave, whose occupants include the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi parliament building, and other U.S. and Iraqi government offices, covers about four square miles in central Baghdad.
The U.N. chief was shown on television flinching as a mortar round crashed into the Green Zone in March while he was visiting Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who was standing beside Ban, said, “It’s nothing, it’s nothing.”
But because of the Green Zone’s reputation for tight security, each breach is especially jarring to the foreigners as well as the several thousand Iraqis who live along its wide avenues and quiet side streets. Sometimes they hear the warning calls when radar detects incoming missiles, but there is not always a warning.
On Saturday, an Iraqi man was killed when a rocket flew into the street on which he lived. Neighbors said no warning sounded.
Special correspondents in Baghdad and Diyala province contributed to this report.