Bomb hits French embassy convoy in Baghdad

BAGHDAD Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:30pm BST

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Seven people were wounded on Monday when a French embassy convoy was hit by a make-shift bomb in Baghdad in the second attack on the mission's vehicles in a month, an embassy official and local police said.

The attack in Baghdad's al-Mesbah neighbourhood underscored the still shaky security situation in the capital as the last U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by a planned year-end deadline.

Iraqi security sources said seven people were wounded in the attack, but an embassy spokesman said no French diplomatic or security personnel were hurt though one of the convoy's vehicles was badly damaged.

"We had an attack with an IED (improvised explosive device)," Issa Maraut, the French embassy first consul, said.

A French embassy convoy also was hit by an improvised explosive a month ago, but Maraut said there was no indication the embassy was being specifically targeted.

A Reuters witness said one of the convoy's vehicles and two other civilian cars were damaged in the blast.

Violence has eased in Iraq since the heights of the sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007, but an al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgency and rival Shi'ite militia continue daily roadside bombings, mortar attacks and killings.

Iraqi security officials last year arrested 12 suspected members of al Qaeda who they said had planned to set off a car bomb at the French embassy in Baghdad.

France has been on high alert for attacks due to tensions over presence of its troops in Afghanistan and the country's ban on allowing full-length Islamic veils, which was widely criticised by Muslims abroad as harming their religious freedom.

In April last year, suicide bombers launched coordinated car bomb attacks on the Iranian, Egyptian and German embassies in the Iraqi capital, killing up to 40 people.

Eight years after the U.S. invasion, the last American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of this year. U.S. and Iraqi forces say they expect an increase in attacks as militias try to show they are pressuring Washington to leave.

(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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