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Mortars hit coalition HQ in Baghdad

Iraqi insurgents bombarded the headquarters for U.S. military and civilian operations in central Baghdad on Friday, the first attack on the sprawling compound in nearly a month.
/ Source: news services

Iraqi insurgents bombarded the heavily fortified headquarters for U.S. military and civilian operations in central Baghdad in the early hours of Friday, the first attack on the sprawling compound in nearly a month.

The attack came shortly after midnight when loud booms shook the capital. Sirens wailed as loudspeakers warned residents in the complex to take evasive action.

The U.S. military could not immediately confirm what sort of munitions were fired, but sources said mortars were probably used to hammer the five kilometer square area, known as the Green Zone.

“There were four points of impact within the Green Zone,” a U.S. military spokeswoman said on Friday. “Two coalition force members were slightly wounded from flying debris, but the injuries are not life-threatening.”

One building in the area, comprising dozens of palaces which were once part of Saddam Hussein’s presidential compound, was slightly damaged. Smoke could be seen billowing from at least two locations.

It was the first bombardment on the headquarters, which is protected by two-meter-high concrete walls, since mid-November, when guerrillas fired on the complex on several nights running.

Suicide attack kills GI
The assault came shortly after a suicide car bomb attack on a U.S. military base west of Baghdad which killed one U.S. soldier and wounded 14. It was the third suicide attack on U.S. forces in Iraq this week.

Also Thursday, the military reported one U.S. soldier drowned and another was missing after a patrol boat accident on the Tigris River in Baghdad.

“The soldiers were conducting routine patrols on the Tigris River when one of the soldiers fell overboard, and the other soldier jumped in to save him,” the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Since the start of the war, 311 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action, 196 of them since major combat was declared over on May 1.

Separately, U.S. efforts to create a new, streamlined Iraqi army suffered a major setback on Thursday when more than a third of the recruits resigned, complaining about pay and conditions.

Around 300 soldiers of the 700 drafted into the First Battalion of the new Iraqi army walked out, with many reportedly going to look for jobs with the better paying police force.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.