The bomber waited in a checkpoint line outside of the Green Zone, also known as the international zone, and detonated the bomb as he drove toward the checkpoint, the Associated Press reported.
At least 13 people were killed and 15 wounded in the explosion, according to Abdel Satar of Baghdad’s Yarmouk Hospital,
Wanted militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq group claimed responsibility for the bomb on its Web site.
“On this blessed day, a lion from the Martyr’s Brigade has gone out to strike at a gathering of apostates and Americans in the Green Zone,” the group said.
Monday’s attack followed a weekend of violence, especially west of the war-torn capital. On Sunday, U.S.-jets dropped 10 precision-guided missiles on insurgent positions in Fallujah, but it was unclear if any insurgents were killed.
“We are still running into some of these die-hard insurgents that have either come back into the city or have been laying low,” spokesman Lt. Lyle Gilbert told the AP. “As we are bringing in contractors to help with the reconstruction of Fallujah, this (fighting) slows the process down.”
It was also unclear if the Marine deaths were connected with those incidents.
The military said the seven Marines died in two incidents while conducting “security and stabilization operations” in the western Anbar Province, the AP reported.
The continuing U.S. operations come as the Iraq’s leaders stepped up their criticism of the American efforts. Iraq’s interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said in an interview broadcast Monday that the U.S.-led coalition should have not dismantled Iraqi security forces last year.
“Definitely dissolving the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Inferior was a big mistake at that time,” al-Yawer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
He also added that the current members should have been screened for loyalists to the former regime, rather than start over.
“As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners and I think it doesn’t take years, it will take months,” al-Yawer said.