Wednesday, September 06, 2006

THE "ROUTE IRISH"




It's just 12 kilometres long, but those who use Route Irish in Baghdad say it's way beyond the edge, writes Paul McGeough.

The colour fades from Amar's knuckles as he grips the wheel. He eases the car towards the on-ramp and plants his foot, whipping the Nissan till it is nudging 140kmh as we enter Route Irish - the most dangerous stretch of highway on earth.

At the city end is the Green Zone, the fortress-like government, military and diplomatic quarter in the heart of Baghdad. At the other are Baghdad International Airport and the US military headquarters in Iraq.

Between them is this terrifying void that must be chanced by all who come to the Iraqi capital. The Americans have opened a helicopter bridge to reduce the number of VIPs at risk. And an extortionist Baghdad-based security firm offers bullet-proof taxi rides - $3000-plus one-way.

But because Route Irish is the only way in and the only way out, it's a terrorist's gift, a ready-made shooting gallery in which there are few dud ducks. Virtually everyone is a trophy - senior military officers, busloads of Western coalition staff and their baggage wagons, lumbering supply convoys, Western businessmen or a journalist going home, and all the coalition and Iraqi military patrols sucked into an exhaustive and grinding security operation along the road

Between 1 November 2004 and 12 March 2005, there were 135 attacks or hostile incidents that occurred along Route Irish. These included

  • 9 complex attacks (i.e., a combination of more than one type of attack, e.g., an IED followed by small arms fire or mortars),
  • 19 explosive devices found,
  • 3 hand grenades,
  • 7 indirect fire attacks,
  • 19 roadside explosions,
  • 14 rocket propelled grenades (RPGs),
  • 15 vehicle borne explosive devices, and 4 other types of attacks.

The attack density for the period 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 is 11.25 attacks per mile, or a minimum of one attack per day along Route Irish since November.

Route Predators, Route Cardinals and Route Senators.

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