Main U.S. Base Near Baghdad Attacked
Detainees, some holding certificates of completion from a training program, wait for their release from a U.S.-run facility at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 10, 2007. About 60 detainees a day were released from custody as a goodwill gesture by the U.S. during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/Kim Curtis)
A rocket attack on the main U.S. base near Baghdad killed two members of the U.S.-led coalition forces and wounded 40 people, the military said Thursday. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is calling for stepped up oversight of private security firms in Iraq. Speaking on the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, the Arizona senator said private security contractors like Blackwater USA were needed because U.S. troops were stretched too thin. McCain says the reason Blackwater was in Iraq is because the U.S. never had enough troops on the ground.
The attack occurred Wednesday at the Camp Victory, a sprawling garrison that houses the headquarters of American forces in Iraq, according to a statement. The military says insurgents fired rockets on the camp from a nearby abandoned school.
Two coalition force members were killed and 38 wounded, the military said. It also said two "third country nationals" were wounded. It did not identity them further, but military spokesman Lt. Col. Rudolph Burwell said the term usually refers to foreign contractors and not Iraqis or Americans.
The attack is under investigation, the statement said.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that because of the timing and accuracy of this latest attack, some officials suspect a spy inside Camp Victory is telling the enemy exactly when and where to aim.
Most troops stationed at Camp Victory are American but other coalition soldiers are based at the complex near Baghdad International Airport. No further details on the attack were immediately released.
Camp Victory and other U.S. bases in Iraq have frequently come under fire, but attacks with such a large number of casualties are rare.
On Sept. 11, one person was killed and 11 were wounded in a rocket attack. The U.S. military said a 240 mm rocket provided to Shiite extremists by Iran was used in that attack.
The U.S.-protected Green Zone, which houses the American and British embassies and the Iraqi government headquarters, is far more vulnerable as it is situated in central Baghdad.
In other recent developments:
The Associated Press reports the State Department, reacting to last month's Blackwater shooting, is considering limiting or phasing out the use of private security contractors to guard U.S. diplomats in Iraq. A state department official, speaking anonymously, tells CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier that replacing private contractors with government Diplomatic Security agents would be difficult - as the department is already fighting manpower issues to try to get just one Diplomatic Security agent into each convoy. "We used to have agents in every vehicle... and cameras and recording equipment," said the source, until just over a year ago, when the last head of diplomatic security decided to stop that, because he had a manpower shortage, they had lost three agents, and didn't want to lose any more.
Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Congressman Dan Burton are asking the secretary of the Army for a speedy investigation of the death of 32-year-old Sergeant Gerald Cassidy. The Indiana National Guardsman was injured in a roadside explosion in Iraq more than 15 months ago. He arrived at Fort Knox, Ky., in April and died last month. His mother says he was denied pain medication and had not been seen by doctors for days.
Police say clashes Thursday between suspected al Qaeda gunmen and police at checkpoints in Abbara left at least one officer dead and two others wounded. One gunman was killed and several others fled.
Also Thursday, five Iraqi civilians were shot to death and four others were wounded in a morning attack on a minibus making its way from Khalis to Kirkuk.
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