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Bomb Explodes at Iraqi Parliament Building

ALEX COHEN, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. Madeleine Brand is on assignment. I'm Alex Cohen.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, e-mails suddenly missing from White House files.

COHEN: But first, to Baghdad's Green Zone, the one area of Iraq specifically designed to be impervious to violence. Today, a suicide bomber proved no place is completely safe. An explosion inside the Green Zone at the Iraqi parliament building killed eight people. At least three of them were members of the Iraqi parliament. State TV says dozens of other people were injured.

We spoke earlier with NPR's Jamie Tarabay. She described the building where the Iraqi parliament meets.

JAMIE TARABAY: It's in the convention center, which is where a lot of the coalition activities were based just after the invasion, and it's actually supposed to be bomb proof. Saddam had built it that way to escape any kind of bombardment during the war. Parliament has always been meeting at this convention center, and to get in, you have to go through quite a bit of security.

If you're going on foot as we do sometimes, you have to pass Georgian military, you have pass private security, and then you have to pass Iraqi security. And the Iraqis are the ones who are in charge entry into the actual building.

COHEN: Jamie, with all this security, how could someone get in with a bomb?

TARABAY: Well, this is the question that everyone's going to be looking at. These security measures that I just laid out, they don't actually apply to everyone. There are Iraqi lawmakers who go in with their retinue of bodyguards and spokesman and aides, and they don't all necessarily get checked.

A lot of them get quite insulted when they're told to get in line and go through metal detectors. So this is one of the things that everyone is going to be looking at - who got in on the day. They're going to be looking at the workers at the cafeteria, and they're also be going to be looking at the media, because the cafeteria isn't an open area, but it's - there's a court. And on the other side is where all the Iraqi and Western presses - and we wait there to be able to grab one the politicians to talk to them while parliament is out of session.

COHEN: Jamie, one of our editors here who has been at that convention center said it was almost like a convention center out of 1970s Cincinnati. That it felt very comfortable, laid back. It was the one place where he said he felt safe. How do you think people are going to feel after today with this bombing there? Have they lost their sense of security?

TARABAY: Definitely. I think one of the quite amusing things that we've just seen come across the news today in the wake of this attack was that the parliament's speaker, Mahmud Mashadani, had issued a call for parliamentarians to turn up for an emergency session. Somehow, I don't think they're going to be rushing back into the building. But there had been attacks at this same place before.

There are routinely mortars fired into the area around this convention center when parliament is in session. You know, it's not the first time security's being breached. The beginning of this month, officials said that they'd found two suicide vests. So it's not the first time that the security has been breached in this area. It is a heavily fortified zone. But, you know, every now and then, something does get through.

COHEN: Any speculation on what they might do to ramp up security measures now after this bombing?

TARABAY: I'm sure there will be more guards. I'm sure there'll be more checkpoints. There'll be more metal detectors and more x-ray machines. They'll be just be more thorough. And maybe this time, they might actually start checking everybody who comes in and out of the building.

COHEN: This wasn't the only bombing that happened today. Can you give us a sense of how what happened in the Green Zone affects the sense of security throughout the rest of the country?

TARABAY: You know, it's funny, because we've been speaking to some Iraqis afterwards. They're actually more affected by this bridge that was blown-up at dawn this morning. The Sarafia Bridge connects to the northern neighborhoods in Baghdad, and the blasts were so powerful it sunk the bridge at two points. And 10 people were killed, many others were wounded, and some people drowned in the river trying to escape their vehicles.

Iraqis that we've been speaking to - some of them are actually - they think that the parliamentarians are completely oblivious to the suffering of the Iraqis. They only turn up to parliament, Iraqis claim, when it's payday. They're not particularly interested in how it is to live in the Red Zone as it is, and they're much more concerned with their own immediate security, and this bombing of the bridge this morning just brings that closer to them than anything that might be happening in the Green Zone.

COHEN: Jamie Tarabay is NPR's Baghdad correspondent. Thanks so much, Jamie.

TARABAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.