Officials say now only one killed in Green Zone
American and Iraqi officials on Friday reduced the number of casualties in Thursday’s bombing of the Iraqi parliament, as parliament members attempted to hold an emergency meeting in the attack’s aftermath.
Officials said Friday that one person had been killed and more than 20 others wounded in the attack. On Thursday, American military officials said eight people had been killed in the suspected suicide bombing.
“[Thursday’s] reports were based on initial reports from the scene. During evacuation operations, emergency responders and eyewitnesses reported that casualties were being evacuated in multiple directions,” a military statement read.
Security was extremely tight at the Iraqi parliament building Friday as investigators and officials picked through the debris of the bombing. Shattered glass and wrecked furniture covered the floor of the large, second-story cafeteria, while dried blood and shrapnel holes marked the ceiling some 50 feet overhead.
More than 150 people, many of them members of parliament, gathered at the site at noon to pray for the victims of the attack and to condemn those responsible. A wreath of flowers was placed on the chair of the parliament member who had been killed in the blast.
“We are here to show the terrorists that we will not be intimidated,” a speaker said.
The parliament called an extremely rare emergency session on Friday — the Muslim holy day. But, because of tight security and an ongoing driving ban every Friday in Baghdad, most members of parliament were unable to attend.
Iraqi parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani began Friday’s session by asking people to recite verses from the Quran to mourn a fallen “hero, the parliament member Mohammed Awad.” But because few members were able to arrive, the session instead turned into the group prayer and condemnation of the attack.
“Very few parliament members showed up because of the curfew,” Mohammed Abu Bakr, head of the parliament’s media office, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “Also the MPs’ turnout is very low today because most of them are visiting those who were wounded by the blast.”
Iraqi television stations on Friday repeatedly showed images of the blast captured during an interview that coincided with the blast. In the video, a lawmaker is answering questions when a bright flash is seen, followed by the explosion, then sounds of shattering glass and screams.
The cameraman then worked his way into the cafeteria, through clouds of dust and smoke, capturing images of the immediate aftermath of the attack.
U.S. military investigators were conducting forensic tests of the blast site, while Iraqi and American officials looked into how the bomber penetrated security at the Green Zone, the most heavily fortified area in Baghdad.
Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps – Iraq, said Friday military officials “simply don’t know” how anyone could have penetrated security and carried out the attack.
“I wish I could tell you the answer to that,” Odierno said from Baghdad in a teleconference with Pentagon reporters. “I think it’s like everything else. Something didn’t go right. There’s plenty of defenses there” in the Green Zone.
Iraqi security officials said the suicide bomber was likely the bodyguard of a Sunni lawmaker who was not hurt in the blast.
An American military spokesman told CNN on Thursday night that, “We don’t know at this point who it was. We do know in the past that suicide vests have been used predominantly by al-Qaida.”
According to media reports, within an hour of the bombing, a claim of responsibility had been posted on the Internet by the Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaida controlled militant group.
The posting called the attack a “message” to those who cooperate with “the occupier and its agents.”
“We will reach you wherever you are,” the post read.
Stars and Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this story.