- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BAGHDAD

A woman hiding a bomb under her long robe blew herself up Monday among Iraqis waiting to enter the U.S.-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.

In another attack, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol near Technology University in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians, an Iraqi police officer said. Two police officers were among four wounded.

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,” Mr. al-Sayyid said.

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

U.S. troops have been instrumental in weakening insurgents, and the latest attacks appeared to bolster the Iraqi government’s claim that a hasty American departure could undermine the relative stability that many parts of Iraq have enjoyed since 2007. That argument is key to efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to win parliament’s broad approval for the U.S.-Iraqi pact.

The ruling coalition has a majority in parliament and could secure at least a thin majority if the 275-seat legislature votes as scheduled Wednesday on the security deal.

Wednesday’s session will be the last before the legislature goes into recess for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, when scores of lawmakers travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, said Khalid al-Attiyah, deputy speaker of the parliament.

Lawmakers will meet again in the second half of December, he said.

There was no evidence that the attacks on Monday were linked to the contentious debate over the security pact.

Suicide bombings are associated with the Sunni-led insurgency. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been increasingly using women as suicide attackers because their billowing robes easily conceal explosives. Iraqi police often lack enough female officers to search women carefully.

American troops currently operate under the legal cover of a U.N. mandate that expires Dec. 31. If the Iraqi parliament rejects the agreement and the U.N. mandate is not renewed, U.S. and other foreign forces in Iraq would have to be confined inside their bases.

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