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3 Arrested in Iraq Attack on Embassy (NYT 9/16)

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Muttocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 11:11 AM
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3 Arrested in Iraq Attack on Embassy (NYT 9/16)

Published: September 16, 2009

BAGHDAD American and Iraqi forces raided a house in Baghdad and, after a gunfight, arrested three Iraqis suspected of launching a rocket attack coinciding with a visit here by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the American military said Wednesday.

Mr. Biden arrived here on Tuesday for two days of talks with Iraqi leaders. Shortly after saying he was headed to bed for the night at the American Embassy, four missiles landed nearby around the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Early Wednesday, a statement from the American military identified the weapons fired as 107-millimeter rockets, not mortars, as initially reported. Such rockets have previously been traced back to Iran. The statement said that the raid uncovered launchers believed to have been used in the attack.

Mr. Biden, making his second unannounced visit here as vice president in little more than three months, was never in imminent danger, but the attack underscored the violence that remains a backdrop to American efforts to promote political reconciliation.

Im here to listen, Mr. Biden said of his plans to meet with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and an array of other senior leaders, many of whom remain at odds.

At least two Iraqis were killed and five wounded in the attack, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Two rockets landed in an apartment complex only a few hundred feet from the sprawling embassy compound, according to witnesses.

It was not clear if the attack in the Green Zone a recurring, if not frequent occurrence was aimed at Mr. Bidens entourage. But word of his arrival at Baghdad International Airport at 4:20 on a hot, dusty afternoon had been widely broadcast.

An insurgent group known as the Mujahideen Army, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The statement, which included racist and anti-Semitic references to Mr. Biden and President Obama, said the attack was a message to saddle for your departure and pull out from our country as God will not let us down as long as we fight you to uphold his word.

The attack began shortly after 7 p.m. Flashes could be seen in the Karada neighborhood across the Tigris River from the embassy.

Inside the embassy compound, a piercing duck and cover alarm began moments after the American military commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, told reporters traveling with Mr. Biden that security remained at its lowest levels since the war began despite major bomb attacks like the ones on Aug. 19 that badly damaged two government ministries and killed at least 132 people.

American helicopters swiftly appeared over the neighborhood where the attack originated, while ambulances and fire trucks moved toward the apartment complex that was hit. A third projectile apparently landed harmlessly on the banks of the Tigris; the fourth landed nearby.

Shortly after the attack, Iraqi police officers opened fire on a car speeding down Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad. That prompted an American patrol to open fire on the Iraqi police in the confusion. We had to hide behind blast walls, an Iraqi officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

No one was killed in the cross-fire. The driver of the car was arrested after the police found materials that could be used in an attack, the officer said.


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