Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bombing in the Green Zone

Troubling development:
The attack in the Green Zone targeted a cafeteria frequented by Iraqi lawmakers at a time when many legislators and staff were eating lunch, and the Associated Press reported that at least two members of Parliament were killed.

The wire service named one of the dead as Mohammed Awad, a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, and attributed the information to a spokesman for the party.

The other lawmaker was not named, but was reported to be a Shiite. At least four others were wounded in the blast, which hit the heart of an area designed as a secure zone for Iraqi officials, diplomats, journalists and others. According to AP reports, security officials used bomb sniffing dogs at the entrance of the government building on Thursday, an extra precaution that may have indicated they were worried about an attack.

The Parliament was in session and had just broken for lunch when the bomb went off. It was unclear at first whether the explosion was the result of a suicide bombing or a device planted in the cafeteria.
Either possibility is disturbing, but I'm not sure if it's worse that someone could sneak a bomb in to plant, or could wear it in past the security checkpoints. And as the article mentions, this is hardly the first attack inside the Green Zone. In fact, this Washington Post article from late last month discusses the rise in attacks, though it discusses attacks that were conducted with rockets and mortars, weapons that can be launched into the Green Zone from outside its borders. And although such types of attacks have been conducted on targets in the Green Zone from the early days of the insurgency, they have recently increased in number and lethality. Today's attack differs of course in that it involved getting explosives into the Green Zone to detonate, the implications of which are more serious. Whatever method of attack, it would seem the insurgents are stepping up their attacks, almost certainly as part of an effort to undermine the security plan.

UPDATE: Above, I left out a crucial fact that makes it clear how troubling it is that someone got a bomb in the Green Zone. Entrance into the Green Zone is guarded entirely by Coalition forces (mostly American, or foreign contractors.) No Iraqi troops are involved. Here's Spencer Ackerman on what this means for someone trying to get into the Green Zone:
If so -- and even if the bomb was planted and detonated remotely -- that means someone in a uniform had to wave the bomber into the parliament building. I didn't visit the parliament, but getting into a facility like the U.S. Embassy chow hall requires passing through several tiers of security. You are scanned and frisked. Your papers are scrutinized. Your companions are questioned. Items on your person are confiscated, even without suspicion of their use for terrorism. It's a likely bet that someone guarding the facility, and quite possibly a beneficiary of our training, equipping and mentoring efforts, wanted the attack to occur.
This AP article seems to support that contention that it was an inside job:
The parliament bombing was believed to be the deadliest attack in the Green Zone, the enclave that houses Iraq's leadership as well as the U.S. Embassy, and is secured by American and Iraqi checkpoints. Security officials at parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information, said they believed the bomber was a bodyguard of a Sunni member of parliament who was not among the dead. They would not name the member of parliament. The officials also said two satchel bombs were found inside the building near the dining hall. A U.S. military bomb squad took the explosives away and detonated them without incident.
In other words, the attack could have been worse.

Simply put, no matter how many guards you post around a secure area, if you can't trust the people who have access in and out of the area, you can't guarantee security.

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