THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mortar rounds hit Baghdad suburb

Associated Press / April 18, 2009
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BAGHDAD - Mortar rounds hit a Shi'ite enclave south of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least four people in the latest sign of violence returning to areas that US and Iraqi forces have considered largely stable.

The attack in the Jisr Diyala district, although small compared with recent bombings, reinforced worries that security forces may need to shift attention back to areas that have been relatively quiet in recent months even as they battle to control the last insurgent strongholds north of Baghdad in Diyala and Mosul.

It also raised concerns about Iraq's ability to maintain security key areas after the US military withdraws from major cities by the end of June.

Police and hospital officials said the mortar attack in Jisr Diyala killed at least four people and wounded about 10 others. The district is primarily Shi'ite, but is surrounded by heavily Sunni areas. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mohammed Khazim said he was watering his garden when the attack occurred. He recalled hearing two explosions before being knocked unconscious.

"We are surprised with this attack because things have been calm in our neighborhood recently," said Khazim, 54, who was treated for wounds to his left leg and hand. "I do not understand why they would attack a civilian area that has no military posts at all."

Mortar barrages on Baghdad's fortified Green Zone were common last year, but such attacks have dropped off considerably in recent months. It comes as Iraqi and US forces face a spike in violence, including several high-profile bombings.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber struck an Iraqi military base in Habbaniyah, about 45 miles west of Baghdad. There were conflicting account of casualties, including some indicating fatalities. The Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Mohammed al-Askari, said 38 Iraqi soldiers were wounded but only the bomber died.