Friday, September 17, 2004
Green Zone is ‘no longer totally secure'
By James Drummond and Steve Negus in Baghdad
Published: September 15 2004 22:03 | Last updated: September 15 2004 22:03
US military officers in Baghdad have warned they cannot guarantee the security of the perimeter around the Green Zone, the headquarters of the Iraqi government and home to the US and British embassies, according to security company employees.
At a briefing earlier this month, a high-ranking US officer in charge of the zone's perimeter said he had insufficient soldiers to prevent intruders penetrating the compound's defences.
The US major said it was possible weapons or explosives had already been stashed in the zone, and warned people to move in pairs for their own safety. The Green Zone, in Baghdad's centre, is one of the most fortified US installations in Iraq. Until now, militants have not been able to penetrate it.
But insurgency has escalated this week, spreading to the centre of Baghdad. The zone is home to several thousand Iraqis, and on Sunday it came under the heaviest attack since it was established. Up to 60 unexploded rockets were found inside its perimeters after a five-hour barrage.
On Tuesday, a car bomb outside a Baghdad police station killed 47 people, and 12 members of the police and their driver were shot dead in Baquba. The attack was the worst in the city for several months.
The violence in Iraq continued on Wednesday when 10 Iraqis were killed in clashes with US troops using artillery in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The decapitated bodies of three men, believed to be Arab kidnap victims, were separately found on a highway north of Baghdad.
The US military defended the actions of its helicopter gunship pilots, who killed at least a dozen Iraqi civilians who were surrounding a disabled Bradley armoured fighting vehicle in Baghdad's Haifa street on Sunday. US military officials said the Kiowa helicopters, which fired into a crowd, were shooting in self-defence and had not violated US rules of engagement.
The helicopters saw tracer bullets coming at them from the ground and fired rockets in response, officers of the First Cavalry division in Baghdad said. The pilots "did not see a large crowd of innocent civilians around the [vehicle]", said Colonel Jim McConville, commander of the unit's helicopter forces. The helicopters were called in to prevent insurgents from stealing radios, weapons, and other sensitive equipment from the Bradley, which had been knocked out by a car bomb. The helicopters could have fired rockets from a distance, the officers said, which would have been safer for the crews but more dangerous for civilians.
"If we were not concerned about collateral damage we would have used [this] engagement technique," Major General Peter Chiarelli, the unit's commanding officer, said.
We are not winning this. We have created a hell out of Iraq. Amazingly it's actually getting worse. When will this country wake up to the catastrophic course we're on? When will the population punish Bush for the incompetence that he's shown. God willing, on November 2nd.