Green Zone and Mosul Hit by Surge of Violence Rockets and mortars pummeled the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Sunday, and in a separate attack in the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber set off an explosion near an Iraqi army military post.
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Green Zone and Mosul Hit by Surge of Violence

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Green Zone and Mosul Hit by Surge of Violence

Green Zone and Mosul Hit by Surge of Violence

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Today was a violent day in Iraq, even by Iraqi standards.

(Soundbite of explosions and sirens)

SEABROOK: This was the sound inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. That's the nerve center of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Rockets and mortars pounded the zone today. Elsewhere in the country, more than 50 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Baghdad, and Lourdes, let's start with these attacks in the Green Zone. What have you learned?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, there's been a constant barrage all day. We're very close to the Green Zone. You just hear these thumps echoing through. The first attack came in the early morning. It was the heaviest. One of the mortars hit a car very close to the U.S. embassy. The second attack took place at around 10 a.m., again, coming close to the U.S. embassy compound. Then there was a third attack, this evening. Now, some of the dozens of mortars and rockets fell short and killed Iraqis in surrounding civilian areas.

The Green Zone has always been a popular target because hitting it carries a lot of symbolism, as you can imagine. It's supposedly the most heavily protected area in Baghdad, and yet they're still vulnerable to attack. Attacks against the Green Zone have become infrequent, but we've seem an uptick recently. And today, obviously, someone seems to have been trying to send a message.

SEABROOK: Any idea who that might be?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, there's some conjecture that these attacks may have come from rogue elements of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, but no group has claimed responsibility and they normally don't. Now, Moqtada al-Sadr's militia is formally observing a ceasefire, but there are signs that it may be cracking. We've seen in the southern city of Kut, fighting between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi Security Forces this past week. We've seen fierce fighting in Baghdad as well. Now, some members of the Mahdi Army are really not happy at all at the ceasefire.

SEABROOK: Now Lulu(ph), I know outside of Baghdad, there was violence in Mosul, in the city of Samarra. What do you know about those attacks?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We saw two suicide attacks in Mosul. A truck bomber smashed into an Iraqi Army base, killing at least 10 Iraqi soldiers. There was then a second bombing, also targeting an Iraqi Army base. The reason we've seen Mosul become such a hotspot is because insurgents have been pushed out of Baghdad and they've moved north. That also means Samarra. Today there was another car bombing, this time targeting local Sunni tribal fighters.

SEABROOK: Now, this must be of great concern to the U.S. military. It is now drawing down the troops that were part of the surge. And while security has improved across Iraq, is there a concern that things could get out of control again?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely. What the U.S. military has always said is that the gains we've seen over the past months are reversible. And so, they're watching the situation very, very closely. Over the past few weeks we've seen violence increasing. Today was a dramatic example of that. Fifty-two people killed, 117 wounded across the country, definitely they're going to be watching this very, very closely to see if this trend continues. And if it does, perhaps, that may affect the speed with which some of these U.S. forces are withdrawn.

SEABROOOK: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Baghdad. Thanks very much, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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