Iraq: bomb blast at parliament; GIs’ tours extended

An explosion has hit the lunchtime cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament building, located in the “Green Zone” stronghold of Baghdad [April 12]. It is thought to have injured several members of parliament and employees. The al-Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad, connecting the two northern neighbourhoods of Waziriyah (predominantly Sunni) and Utafiyah (largely Shia), has been severely damaged by a bomb blast, killing at least 8 and injuring 26 people.

Meanwhile, US armed forces are to increase standard one-year tours by three months for all active-duty soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, describes the measure as a necessary step in order to sustain troop levels in Baghdad. Roughly 100,000 soldiers currently posted in the two countries will be affected, as well as future deployments; the army reserve, marines and National Guard will not be affected, however.

Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, condemned the move as an “unacceptable price for our troops and their families to pay,” while Ike Skelton, chair of the Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives, insisted that “this new policy will be an additional burden to an already overstretched army.”

Afghan and Iraqi civilians have submitted claims to the US Army for non-combat injuries, killings and destruction to property, amounting to $32 million in payments made thus far. A recently-released US government report [Army paperwork on the compensation claims, turned over to the ACLU following an FOIA request] reveals the extent to which bystanders have become the victims, and even the targets, of coalition force amidst the fog of war.

From Security Briefs, April 12

See our last post on Iraq.