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. rkm -------------------------------------------------------- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/25/international/middleeast/25iraq.html October 25, 2005 3 Bombers Strike at Baghdad Hotels By KIRK SEMPLE 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 casualties. 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 people. 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 majority. 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 Falluja. Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company -- -------------------------------------------------------- http://cyberjournal.org "Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World" http://www.cyberjournal.org/cj/rkm/Apocalypse_and_NWO.html Posting archives: http://cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?date=01Jan2006&batch=25&lists=newslog Subscribe to low-traffic list: •••@••.••• ___________________________________________ In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.