Bomb attacks kill 20 in Green Zone

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The Independent Online

A woman hiding a bomb under her long robe blew herself up yesterday among Iraqis waiting to enter the US-protected Green Zone, where lawmakers plan to vote this week on a pact that would let American forces stay in Iraq for up to three more years.

The morning attack in central Baghdad killed seven people, by an Iraqi count, and came about 45 minutes after a bomb destroyed a minibus carrying Trade Ministry employees in the eastern part of the capital.

At least 13 people died in that blast, most of them women; some of the bodies were burned so badly that authorities could not immediately identify them.

Ahmed al-Sayyid, 23, said he was waiting in line with friends at an entrance to the Green Zone, hoping for a job interview with the Iraqi police. A woman in a black abaya, an enveloping cloak, approached the line without drawing the attention of guards, he said.

"Suddenly, she blew herself up about 50 meters from where I was standing. I was horrified and I ran away. But seconds later, I returned to the explosion site, which was filled with smoke, and I could see some wounded people and pieces of flesh," al-Sayyid said.

Guards fired in the air to disperse the crowd after the explosion, he said.

The violence appeared to bolster the Iraqi government's claim that a hasty departure of US forces could undermine the relative stability that many parts of Iraq have enjoyed since 2007 after years of bloodletting. That argument is key to troubled efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to win parliament's broad approval for the US-Iraqi security pact.