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Baghdad Rocked by Explosions; Mortar Attack Kills 1


A mortar barrage on Baghdad has killed at least one person and injured about a dozen others. The insurgents have been increasing their attacks prior to national elections, scheduled for next month.

Baghdad was rocked by numerous explosions, including a mortar attack in the so-called Green Zone in central Baghdad. The heavily protected area, where the interim government conducts business, and where the U.S. embassy is located, was hit by at least two mortars. Columns of thick, black smoke could be seen rising from the sites of the explosions.

The Green Zone has been a favorite target for insurgents in the country, who have attacked the area with mortars, planted bombs, car bombs, and suicide bombers.

The attack against the heavily fortified area seems to underscore the vulnerability that remains throughout Iraq.

According to the senior political adviser to the Interior Ministry, Sabah Kadhim, Iraq may have to learn to live with attacks, such as car bombings, for years to come.

"It is a trend throughout the world, you do see almost every day of car bombs somewhere in the world," said Sabah Kadhim. "So, we cannot pretend we are going to eliminate this entirely. But, if we can go a long way toward capturing the terrorists, or these extreme Islamists or these Saddamists, well at least it will be relatively more secure than it is now."

Mr. Kadhim says the problem in trying to capture insurgents in the country has been a lack of reliable intelligence. But he said the recent military invasion of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, has, for the first time, provided what he called a wealth of information about terrorists in the country. The senior political adviser says that information is now being used to help capture insurgents.

Mr. Kadhim says the interim government has every intention of holding national elections January 30. He says Iraqi police, National Guard, and Iraqi army personnel will be used to help increase security.

The Pentagon has announced an additional 12,000 U.S. troops will be deployed to Iraq before the elections, bringing the number of American troops in Iraq to 150,000.

In the meantime, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has banned its employees from using the highway that leads to Baghdad International Airport.

The 15-kilometer stretch of highway has repeatedly been attacked with mortars, roadside bombs, and suicide bombers. The road is considered to be one of the most dangerous highways in Iraq.