Green Zone rocket attack in Iraq kills 3 U.S. Embassy guards; 4 flee prison
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A rocket attack in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone on Thursday afternoon killed three guards employed by the U.S. Embassy and wounded 15 people, including two Americans, the embassy said.
Two of the guards killed were Ugandan and one was Peruvian, embassy officials said.
Also Thursday, Iraqi officials disclosed that four detainees linked to the Sunni insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq escaped this week from a prison the United States had handed over to Iraqi control last week.
In a statement on the Green Zone attack, the embassy said, “This cruel and senseless attack will not deter the United States from carrying out its goal of working with the Iraqi government and people to build a democratic future.”
The statement said all those killed and wounded in the attack worked for a government contractor, Triple Canopy, that protects U.S. facilities in Iraq.
The United States has long employed Peruvian guards to protect civilian and military installations in Iraq. In recent months, according to guards, it has begun phasing out Peruvians in favor of Ugandans, who work for less money. Third-country guards earn $450 to $1,000 per month, the guards said.
Insurgents have for years lobbed rockets toward the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy compound inside the Green Zone. Such attacks intensified in the spring and summer of 2007 and again in the spring 2008, and have occurred sporadically since. Most haven’t caused casualties.
The attack underscored the tenuousness of security in Iraq a month before the U.S. military is scheduled to declare the nominal end of its combat mission in Iraq and reduce its troop level to 50,000.
At least two of the inmates whose escape was disclosed Thursday were reportedly senior members of the Islamic State of Iraq, the umbrella militant organization that includes al Qaeda in Iraq.
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta said the Justice Ministry was to blame for the prison break, which reportedly occurred Tuesday.
Iraqis familiar with the investigation said it was examining whether the warden, Omar Khames, had driven the men out of the prison in his car.
The U.S. military handed over control of the Camp Cropper prison to the Iraqi government last Thursday. During the ceremony, U.S. commanders expressed confidence in the Justice Ministry’s ability to run the prison.
“This is the first day of a new era,” U.S. Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon had said at the prison handover ceremony last week.
Iraqi Justice Minister Dara Noureddin took the symbolic key to the Camp Cropper prison from U.S. Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon last week.