American Compound Attacked in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ At least three projectiles slammed into a Baghdad hotel housing U.S. military officers and civilian support staff early Saturday, hours after American soldiers killed at least two Iraqis at a checkpoint in Fallujah west of the capital.
James Smith, a spokesman for the U.S.-run coalition, said the projectiles _ either missiles or rocket-propelled grenades _ struck the Al-Rashid Hotel at about 6:30 a.m. There were no casualties and only minor damage to the hotel’s 14th floor.
U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said there or four projectiles fired at the hotel, but ``we are not sure yet what the instrument was.″
The al-Rashid, once one of Baghdad’s best hotels, was taken over by the military after coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein in April. It sits inside a heavily guarded compound that also houses the Baghdad Convention Center, where the military has its press office. The U.S.-appointed Governing Council also has its headquarters in the complex.
Residents of the Salhiya neighborhood just west of the complex said attackers fired rocket launcher from the middle of a street and fled, leaving the launcher behind.
Mohammed Mohanad, an Iraqi policeman at the station across the street from the hotel, said he heard the blasts on his way to work and that he counted four rounds.
In the area around the al-Rashid, reporters were shown a one-story private home where the fourth projectile struck, leaving a sizable hole in the wall.
``I was sleeping on the roof of my house when a very large boom woke me,″ said Esther Shaoul, a next-door neighbor.
The attack came as residents in Fallujah, a hotspot of anti-U.S. resistance west of Baghdad, reported that U.S. troops fired on two vehicles at a checkpoint Friday night, killing four Iraqis and wounding at least five, including a child.
Capt. Taha al-Falahi, chief of security at Fallujah General Hospital, said four people were killed and five were wounded.
One of them, 17-year-old Haidar Jamil told The Associated Press from his hospital bed that his father, mother and grandmother were killed. He was wounded in the left leg and back. His 1 1/2-year-old sister was not hurt in the shooting.
He said the U.S. patrol opened fire first on a motorbike traveling into Fallujah ahead of the pickup truck his father was driving. The fourth fatality was on the motorbike.
The American military in Baghdad said soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division fired on an Iraqi vehicle as it ran a checkpoint in Fallujah about 10:30 p.m. Friday. Spec. Nicole Thompson said two people were killed and four were wounded.
Located in the so-called ``Sunni Triangle,″ Fallujah is one of the major flashpoints of tension between U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. On Sept. 12, U.S. soldiers killed eight Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian hospital guard near the city. In April, American soldiers fired on protesters on two successive days, killing 18 and wounding 78.
A 22-pound bomb was found Saturday planted between the wall of the Fallujah mayor’s office and an adjacent house. The mayor’s office has been evacuated except for a few Iraqi policemen and U.S. soldiers while they wait for the Iraqi civil defense forces to come disarm it. U.S. troops were on the roof of the building, and the area has been sealed off.
An Iraqi police lieutenant, who would not give his name, said the device was in a place where it could not threaten any passing American forces, but appeared to have been intended to sabotage the office of Taha Bedawi, the mayor.
U.S. troops in Baghdad arrested 16 Iraqi policemen Saturday for corruption. An American officer said allegations against them included accepting bribes to allow theft from guarded sites and stealing from the sites themselves. In one case, police allegedly raped a boy who couldn’t pay the shakedown money.
U.S. forces are struggling to maintain order in Iraq five months after the fall of Saddam.
The U.S. military said one soldier from the 173rd Airborne Brigade was killed and two were wounded in an ambush at Kirkuk, 145 miles northeast of Baghdad, when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at their vehicle at about 11 p.m. Thursday.
The death raised to 86 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major fighting in Iraq. The military also announced that a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died and another was injured in a fire Thursday night in an abandoned building in the Tikrit area.
Mourners on Friday buried Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of Iraq’s U.S.-appointed Governing Council who was assassinated, apparently by Saddam loyalists.
Also, more U.N. employees left Iraq for Jordan after Secretary-General Kofi Annan slashed the already diminished foreign staff. The U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad has been attacked twice with bombs.
The United Nations says its humanitarian programs would continue with limited international supervision over a staff of 4,233 Iraqis.
AP reporter Tarek al-Issawi contributed to this report from Fallujah.