Green Zone rocket at­tack in Iraq kills 3 U.S. Em­bassy guards; 4 flee prison

Austin American-Statesman - - A WORLD & NATION - By Ernesto Londoño

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.

Maya Alleruzzo

Iraqi Jus­tice Min­is­ter Dara Noured­din took the sym­bolic key to the Camp Crop­per prison from U.S. Maj. Gen. Jerry Can­non last week.

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