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SLUG: 2-320917 Iraq/Bomb Blast (L)

DATE= 12/04/04






//// eds: UPDATES death toll in intro; please watch CN wire for further updates, and update intro accordingly. ////

HEADLINE: Deadly Bomb Blasts Rock Baghdad

INTRO: Two bomb blasts rocked central Baghdad Saturday near an entrance to the heavily protected area known as the Green Zone. At least seven people were killed and many others wounded. VOA's Greg LaMotte is in the Iraqi capital.

TEXT: The blasts occurred near a heavily fortified entrance that is

commonly used by journalists and Westerners, as well as Iraqi

civilians who work inside the so-called Green Zone in central Baghdad.

Shortly after the explosions, which could be heard throughout the

capital, insurgents used small arms to attack a nearby police

station, which may have been the main target of the attack,

There are five security checkpoint entrances leading into the Green

Zone, where the Iraqi interim government conducts business, and where the U.S. embassy is located.

The Green Zone is a favorite target of insurgents, who have attacked

the area with car bombs, rockets and mortars.

The latest attacks produced columns of thick, black smoke that could

be seen many kilometers away.

Attacks in the Iraqi capital have escalated since shortly after the

U.S.-led offensive against the once-rebellious city of Fallujah, last month.

Several senior government officials say they are certain the attacks

in Baghdad are being carried out by insurgents who fled Fallujah prior to the assault.

Friday, four suicide bombers drove a mini bus loaded with explosives

into a Shiite Muslim mosque, killing as many as 14 people, many of them gathered for morning prayers.

Insurgents also attacked two police stations, killing as many as 12

police officers.

The attacks are intended to disrupt national elections, scheduled to

be held January 30th. However, senior interim government officials have said the elections will be held on time. There have been calls from some political parties to delay the elections for six months.

The senior political adviser to the Interior Ministry is Sabah Kadhim.

/ / / KADHIM ACT / / /

What difference does this make if we wait another six months, only to

have more uncertainty during that period. We want to get that

political beginning for a democratic Iraq, at least, and then we can start with the economic and the political, as well as social and establishment of institutions. We have got to start somewhere, and at sometime. But, to delay it another six months, I think it is a major mistake.

/ / / END ACT / / /

Mr. Kadhim says with the numbers of Iraqi National Guard, army

personnel and police increasing on an almost daily basis, along with the U.S. troop presence in Iraq increasing to 150-thousand by next month, he says the elections can safely be held. (Signed)


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