False flag ? 3 Baghdad bombs


Richard Moore

It could be suicide bombers, but it has typically been 
occupation forces that have been targeting journalists,
and who have a motive for suppressing news reports.



October 25, 2005 

3 Bombers Strike at Baghdad Hotels 

BAGHDAD, Iraq , Oct. 24 - A suicide bomber on Monday drove
a cement mixer packed with explosives into the front
courtyard of two prominent Baghdad hotels popular with
foreigners, but failed to destroy his apparent targets
when the vehicle became snagged in barbed wire as it
headed for the main entrances.

The huge explosion that followed was the last in a
sequence of three vehicle bombs in the late afternoon that
detonated in the area within minutes, killing at least
five Iraqi police officers and an Iraqi civilian and
wounding scores of others.

Though the death toll was far lower than in many recent
suicide attacks, the significance of the assault went
beyond casualty statistics. The two high-rise hotels, the
Palestine and the Sheraton, have been symbols of the
foreign presence in Iraq and have been  the bases for
Western news organizations and foreign security
contractors since the American-led invasion 30 months ago.

The spot where the cement mixer exploded is just below the
mezzanine rooftop of the Palestine, from which reporters
have delivered many of their live dispatches since the day
Saddam Hussein was ousted, and the scene is familiar to
television viewers because of the blue-domed mosque used
as a backdrop for those reports. The bombings, one of them
close to the Ministry of Agriculture a short distance from
the hotels, were the first major attacks against a foreign
civilian target in Iraq since the suicide bombings that
destroyed the headquarters of the United Nations and the
International Committee of the Red Cross.

For the past several weeks, Iraqi and American military
officials had been warning that insurgents might stage a
series of spectacular attacks to disrupt the
constitutional referendum on Oct. 15. But on that day,
there were fewer than 90 attacks across Iraq, a quarter of
the number of attacks during the January election, and
only nine of them were in Baghdad, none with major

That was hailed as evidence that the command was gradually
wearing down the Islamic militants who have been
responsible for many of the suicide bombings that have
caused a high proportion of the civilian casualties in the
war. Such claims have often been followed closely by major
attacks, as if the insurgents have been aiming to
discredit American claims of progress in the war.

Officials said the attack on Monday began when a suicide
car bomb exploded next to an outer security wall
surrounding the Palestine and Sheraton, which sit next to
Firdos Square, the traffic circle where American marines
and Iraqis toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in April
2003. Both hotels are set within a fortified perimeter
guarded by American soldiers and Iraqi police officers,
and both have been targets of smaller attacks with rockets
and mortar rounds.

Several minutes later, another suicide bomber detonated
his sport utility vehicle outside the Ministry of
Agriculture on the opposite side of the square, according
to the commanding officer at the scene, Capt. Ieba
al-Abudi of the Iraqi Army's Sixth Division. That
explosion apparently caused most of the casualties.

As the second bomb exploded, drawing the attention of
rescue workers and security forces, a third suicide bomber
drove a cement truck packed with explosives through the
breach created by the first bomb in front of the hotels.

Video images taken from an upper floor of the Palestine
Hotel showed the truck's driver slowly approaching through
a courtyard laced with razor wire, then driving the
vehicle back and forth for about a minute, trying to free
the truck of wire that was snagged in the axles. Suddenly
the vehicle was engulfed in a huge cloud of smoke and dust
that billowed into the sky.

The three blasts caused heavy structural damage to
surrounding buildings, catapulted chunks of shrapnel
hundreds of yards away and shattered glass that wounded
scores of people, officials said.

The Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie,
said the attackers intended to take over the Palestine
Hotel and seize foreigners as hostages. But other
government officials said that this was only an early
theory, and that the motives of the attackers may have
been simply to kill as many people as possible in a
high-profile manner, particularly by attacking a
headquarters for the foreign news media.

The Associated Press and Fox News have bureaus in the
Palestine, and the hotels anchor a section of the
riverbank that also includes the French Embassy and the
bureaus of several other news organizations.

Mr. Rubaie told The Associated Press and Al Iraqia, an
Arabic-language television network, that several carloads
of insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and
small arms had intended to storm the Palestine following
the explosions and take hostages. Though spotted by
security forces, the insurgents managed to escape capture,
he added.

But the spokesman to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari
discounted that assessment, saying it was "not credible."

"Three car bombs are designed to maximize casualties, not
to take hostages," the spokesman, Laith Kubba,  said in a
telephone interview. "That's not their style."

He added, "This is just carnage."

Government officials could not immediately confirm the
casualty tolls in the bombings, and some gave conflicting
figures, including one death toll estimate of at least 20

A correspondent for The A.P. said two of the agency's
television cameramen were wounded in the bombings, and
three photographers from other agencies were also wounded.

Also on Monday, elections officials released the final
tallies for the constitutional referendum in 14 of the
country's 18 provinces, showing that the constitution was
overwhelmingly rejected in two of those 14 provinces -
Anbar and Salahaddin, both of which are predominantly
Sunni Arab. The document would fail if voters in at least
three provinces reject it by at least a two-thirds

Electoral officials were still certifying the results in
the remaining four provinces, including Nineveh, an
ethnically mixed northern province. Nineveh has been the
focus of fraud allegations because preliminary results
showed an overwhelming majority of voters had approved the
constitution in spite of a significant Sunni Arab
population, which was expected to vote against it.

But representatives of the Independent Electoral
Commission of Iraq reiterated Monday that they had found
no cases of election violations that significantly
affected results.

Representatives of the commission, speaking at a news
conference, said they expected to announce the final
tallies for the four remaining provinces within the next
two days. The officials said those provinces were
arbitrarily selected for special audits from among several
provinces that showed  lopsided results.

In other violence, an American marine was killed Sunday by
small-arms fire during combat operations in Ramadi, an
insurgent stronghold in Anbar Province west of Baghdad,
the American military announced Monday. Nearly 2,000
members of the American military have died since the start
of the Iraq war in 2003.

In Falluja, eight people were killed and five wounded in a
series of bombings and shootings. Five people were killed
when an American security contractor opened fire on their
vehicle, and a man was killed when American soldiers fired
on his vehicle, according to an official at the Falluja
Hospital. The circumstances of the shootings were not
immediately clear, and an American military spokesman in
Baghdad said he had no information about either incident.

Two other civilians in Falluja were killed in a roadside
bomb attack, said the hospital official, Haqi Ismael Abud.

In Hilla, gunmen on Sunday shot and killed 12 Iraqi
laborers who were building a house in the city of
Mussayib, according to an official in the Hilla police
department. The laborers' boss was kidnapped by the
attackers, the official said.

Qais Mizher contributed reporting from Baghdad for this
article, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 



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