Iraq: rockets or mortars hit Green Zone

Other News Materials 23 February 2008 09:26 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- A series of rockets or mortars were fired toward the U.S.-protected Green Zone early Saturday, a day after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia fighters to cease attacks for another six months.

Nearly 10 blasts were heard in the sprawling area in central Baghdad starting about 6:15 a.m., and the U.S. public address system there warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows.

Maj. Brad Leighton, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed the Green Zone was hit by indirect fire, the military's term for a rocket or mortar attack, but could not immediately provide more details.

The U.S. military blamed what it calls Iranian-backed Shiite militias for a series of deadly rocket attacks in Baghdad earlier this week, including one against U.S. outposts in Baghdad that wounded three American soldiers.

Another struck Camp Victory, the main U.S. military headquarters, and an Iraqi housing complex on the capital's southwestern outskirts on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 16, including two U.S. soldiers.

The military said the extremists were among factions that have broken with al-Sadr and refused to follow his cease-fire order. Iran denies allegations that it's stoking the violence.

Al-Sadr announced Friday that he has extended the six-month order through mid-August and the U.S. military welcomed the announcement.

The cease-fire, along with an increase in U.S. troop levels and a move by American-backed Sunni fighters to turn against their former al-Qaida in Iraq allies, has been credited with reducing war deaths among Iraqis by nearly 70 percent in six months, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The 4-square-mile area on the west bank of the Tigris River houses the U.S. and British embassies, the Iraqi government headquarters and thousands of American troops on the west bank of the Tigris River.

It has been frequently struck by rockets and mortar rounds, though the attacks have tapered off amid stepped up security measures and a lull of violence in the capital and surrounding areas.

But they have proven deadly. On July 10, extremists unleashed a barrage of more than a dozen mortars or rockets into the Green Zone, killing at least three people - including an American - and wounding 18.