Diplomats Told to Take Cover in Baghdad

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department has instructed all personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad not to leave reinforced structures due to incoming insurgent rocket fire that has killed two American government workers this week.

In a memo sent Thursday to embassy staff and obtained by The Associated Press, the department says employees are required to wear helmets, body armor and other protective gear if they must venture outside and strongly advises them to sleep in blast-resistant locations instead of the less secure trailers that most occupy.

"Due to the continuing threat of indirect fire in the International Zone, all personnel are advised to remain under hard cover at all times," it says. "Personnel should only move outside of hard cover for essential reasons."

"Essential outdoor movements should be sharply limited in duration," the memo says, adding that personal protective equipment "is mandatory for all outside movements."

"We strongly recommend personnel do not sleep in their trailers," it goes on to say, offering space inside the Saddam Hussein-era palace that is the embassy's temporary home as well as room at an as-yet uncompleted new embassy compound and a limited supply of cots.

In a separate public notice to American citizens in Iraq, the embassy said the restrictions would remain in place "until further notice."

The staff memo says all personnel under the authority of the chief of mission "are required to wear body armor, helmet and protective eyewear any time they are outside of building structures in the International Zone. In addition, chief of mission personnel in the International Zone have been advised to remain inside of hardened structures at all times, except for mission essential movements."

The memo and warden notice were sent after a second American citizen was killed by a rocket attack in the Green Zone on Thursday. A U.S. citizen military contractor died of his wounds on Monday after being severely injured with four others in an attack.

One explosion from a rocket launched by suspected Shiite militiamen on Thursday ignited a fire in the central area of the zone that sent a massive column of thick, black smoke drifting over the Tigris River.

U.S. military officials said that among the weapons used in recent attacks are 107mm rockets made in Iran. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said they have included rockets stamped with 2007 Iranian manufacture dates.

Military and diplomatic officials would not say what had been hit inside the Green Zone. A U.S. military statement said one civilian was killed and 14 wounded "in the vicinity" of the protected district.

The first wave of rockets this week came on Easter Sunday. The Green Zone - and areas nearby - have barely had a breather since.

On Sunday, at least 12 Iraqis were killed that day outside the Green Zone, apparently by salvos that went astray.


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