Loud explosion rocks central Baghdad -witnesses

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BAGHDAD, Nov 14 (Reuters) A loud explosion rocked central Baghdad today, shaking buildings inside the heavily fortified Green Zone compound that houses the US embassy and Iraqi government ministries, witnesses said.

Some witnesses said a car bomb had exploded near a police station not far from the Green Zone. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

The explosion was one of the loudest heard in the capital in weeks. Violence has dropped sharply in Baghdad in recent months following a big increase in American troops this year.

One witness at a hotel inside the Green Zone said the force of the blast shook dust off the outside walls of the building.

US President George W Bush sent an extra 30,000 troops to Iraq earlier this year to take part in an offensive seen as a final attempt to halt the country's slide into civil war.

When the offensive began in February, Iraq was gripped by dozens of bombing and shooting attacks nearly every day. Since American reinforcements were fully deployed in the middle of the year, attacks have fallen sharply and the sound of car bombs and mortar attacks in Baghdad has become less frequent.

REUTERS SV KP1115

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