BAGHDAD (AP) — An explosion earlier this week in the Green Zone, a protected area in the center of the Iraqi capital, was an assassination attempt against the Iraqi prime minister, an Iraqi spokesman said.
That assailants were able to get a bomb inside what is supposed to be the most heavily fortified area in the country raises serious doubts about the abilities of Iraq's security forces at a crucial time when American troops are leaving the country.
The Baghdad military spokesman, Qassim al-Moussawi, said an attacker was able to get a vehicle carrying about 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of explosives into the Green Zone and then tried to join a convoy of other vehicles going into the parliament grounds.
But at a checkpoint leading into the parliament compound, guards prevented the driver from going any farther because he did not have proper authorization. The driver then drove to the parking lot just opposite the parliament entrance where many lawmakers or their staff park, and the vehicle exploded seconds later.
At the time, officials had said they did not know if the explosion was the result of rocket or mortar fire into the Green Zone, whether a bomber managed to get inside or whether a bomb had been attached to a vehicle that then drove into the Green Zone.
Al-Moussawi said the new information was based on confessions from members of a terrorist group. They revealed that the bomb was supposed to go off when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the parliament during an upcoming session, he said. But al-Moussawi declined to give further details.
He added that security officials already had information leading them to believe that al-Maliki might be targeted during his parliament trip. Al-Maliki was expected to address the legislative body soon but no date had been set.
A security official with knowledge of the investigation said police found a charred body near the mangled vehicle and were still trying to determine the identity of the person through DNA tests. The official said no one had come forward to claim the body, and it was not clear whether it was an innocent bystander or a suicide bomber.
Al-Maliki was in his office in another area of the Green Zone when the bomb went off, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.
No one else was killed in the blast, though two people were wounded.
The vast area in central Baghdad dubbed the Green Zone is the most protected area in Iraq and houses the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi parliament and the homes of many Iraqi government officials. People going into the area must go through a checkpoint and show identification. Guards check for bombs or use dogs to search for explosives.
Inside the Green Zone there are often more checkpoints to access certain areas, including the parliament.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.