Journalists' hotel in Baghdad attacked
Updated: 2005-10-25 08:43
Suicide bombers including one in a cement truck packed with explosives
launched a dramatic attack Monday against the Palestine Hotel, where many
foreign journalists are based, sending up a giant cloud of smoke and debris over
American troops and journalists escaped without serious injury but at least a
half-dozen passers-by were killed.
The deafening attack triggered confusion and panic throughout the hotel, and
sent cars swerving wildly on a roundabout to escape the blasts. Inside the
19-story hotel, the force of the blasts shattered glass, tore pictures off walls
and brought down light fixtures and ceilings.
The cement truck was the last of three vehicles trying to break through the
wall outside the hotel. The first car drove up to the wall and exploded,
blasting out a section of the concrete. According to the U.S. military, the
second car was headed for the fresh breach in the wall but exploded near the
14th Ramadan Mosque when it was engaged by civilian security forces.
Within minutes, the truck made it through the breach but apparently became
stuck on a road between the Palestine and the neighboring Sheraton hotel. The
truck rocked back and forth and then blew up after a U.S. soldier opened fire on
it. Had the truck traveled 20 or 30 yards farther and blown up at the hotel
entrance, it could have killed many people inside the Palestine.
The attack happened at dusk just as
Iraqis would have been breaking the daylong fast they observe during the holy
month of Ramadan and eating their first meal, called Iftar. It could have been
an effort to catch Iraqi security forces at a vulnerable moment when they might
have been less attentive.
An image taken from a security camera shows an
explosion on the roundabout outside the cement wall surrounding the
Palestine Hotel compound, bottom right, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 24,
Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said the attack — which
appeared well planned — was a "very clear" effort to take over the hotel and
grab foreign and Arab journalists as hostages. He offered no evidence to support
Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal disputed the kidnapping theory.
"There is no evidence to support this," Kamal said. "This
is just an unlikely assumption. If that were the case, then there would have
been gunmen with the suicide bombers. There were no gunmen."