Rockets hit two hotels, oil ministry in Baghdad
Stars and Stripes November 22, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Rocket attacks believed launched from donkey carts struck Iraq’s Oil Ministry and two hotels used by journalists and foreign contractors Friday morning.
One person was reported injured in an attack on the Palestine Hotel. A rocket also hit the Sheraton Hotel, across a street from the Palestine. No injuries were reported in the attack on the Oil Ministry, which was closed Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.
The hotel attacks were carried out about 7:20 a.m. on a bright, clear day. The attackers led a donkey cart carrying rockets to a street near the hotels and one outside the Oil Ministry, according to Col. Peter Mansoor of the 1st Armored Division.
Eight rockets hit the Oil Ministry some minutes later but only two detonated, Mansoor said.
Seven rockets hit the Palestine Hotel with a loud crash virtually at the same moment, said hotel security official Osama A. Belal.
Across the street at the Sheraton, the attack knocked out several windows.
At the Palestine, where Stars and Stripes reporters are among the occupants, one person was injured and was rushed from the hotel on a stretcher by private security personnel.
One witness said that the injured man appeared to be a Westerner, perhaps in his late 30s. His body was bloodied and pitted with splinters of glass and other debris. He appeared unconscious.
A British journalist whose room was hit was counting himself “very lucky” after escaping unharmed.
The journalist, Anthony Bateman, said he’d gotten out of bed only five minutes before the rockets hit.
“I just got up,” he said. “I was in the lavatory, which is quite fortunate.”
The blast left sharp chips of masonry about the room and the floor and furniture under a whitish film of plaster dust.
A block from the hotel, a large crowd gathered to gape at a singed, stunned donkey and an overturned cart containing unfired rockets. Iraqi police were at the scene and were soon joined by 1st AD soldiers, who flooded the area in Humvees and Bradley fighting vehicles and cordoned it off.
In the attack on the Oil Ministry, witnesses reported hearing five explosions at about 7:30 a.m. Black smoke billowed thickly from the heavily guarded compound. U.S. soldiers kept journalists away.
A ministry official told Dow Jones Newswires that a fire was quickly extinguished and caused no major damage to the building. He said oil production would not be affected.
The attacks came a day after a truck bomb went off near a Kurdish party office in Kirkuk, a northern oil city, killing five people and wounding 30. Local officials blamed that attack on Islamic extremists linked to the al-Qaida terrorist group. It was the second bombing this week against Iraqis cooperating with Americans.
The blast shattered windows and damaged doors. It also blew out windows of a nearby radio-television station.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.