Rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone kills three

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The Independent Online

A rocket struck near a UN compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone today, killing three foreigners and wounding 15 other people, according to UN and military officials.

The victims were working for a catering company that provides services for the United Nations but their nationalities were not being released pending notification of relatives, a UN official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for providing the information ahead of a formal announcement, earlier said three foreigners were killed but later corrected the number to two.

The UN presence in Iraq has been limited since the organisation's Baghdad headquarters was bombed on August 19, 2003, killing 22 people, including top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Tech Sergeant Chris Stagner, a US military spokesman, said explosives ordnance teams had determined Iranian-made rockets were used in the Green Zone attack as well as another strike late yesterday against Camp Victory, the main military headquarters on the western outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

The US military accuses Iran of providing weapons, funding and training to Shiite extremists that oppose the US presence in Iraq.

Rocket and mortar attacks against the Green Zone and other US targets, which have been common throughout the Iraq conflict, spiked this spring during clashes with militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

But they tapered off after al-Sadr declared a cease-fire at the end of weeks of fighting between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and US and Iraqi troops in the capital's Shiite Sadr City district.

Saturday's strike was the first in more than a month against the Green Zone, a sprawling area in central Baghdad that also houses the US Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters.

The attack comes two days after Iraqi lawmakers approved a security pact with the US that would let American forces stay in Iraq for three more years. The deal still must be approved by the three-member presidential council.

Al-Sadr and his followers are opposed to the agreement.