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Roads out of Baghdad become no-go zones

Iraq's National Assembly met for the first time Wednesday. The session was rattled by nearby mortar shells.

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Mohammed Ghazi Umron has a front-row seat for the perils of Iraq's roads: the cab of his truck. And while this Shiite in his 30s enthusiastically voted in Iraq's January election, from where he sits the country is as dangerous as ever.

The road north through Baquba? "Pretty dangerous,'' he says. Due south through Mahmudiyah? "It's bad, but I haven't heard of any drivers being killed there in a few weeks." How about west through Abu Ghraib and on to Fallujah? "Very, very dangerous. We try not to go past Abu Ghraib."

The volley of mortar fire that dropped a few hundred yards short of where the opening session of Iraq's new parliament was held Wednesday rattled the ceremonial gathering and was a reminder that the city remains under siege.

Nearly two years since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, Baghdad is still one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It is ringed in peril. Travel in any direction a few miles outside city limits and the risks intensify. The ferocity and growth of these no-go zones underscores the need for additional Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad as the US begins to reduce its manpower here.

Because of kidnappings and murders on the road immediately south of Baghdad, that area has been dubbed the "triangle of death" by journalists. The areas immediately north and west of the city that have long been called the Sunni triangle has also become shorthand for a no-go zone.

While the term "triangle" makes it seem as if the danger zone is a well defined area with borders, the frontier of danger around the city flexes and shifts almost daily, sometimes surging into the middle of Baghdad and at other times withdrawing to what feels like a safe distance.


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