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Hotel Attackers Not Targeting Wolfowitz, says US Official
VOA News
26 Oct 2003, 17:11 UTC


A senior U.S. military official in Iraq says Sunday's deadly rocket attack on a downtown Baghdad hotel required at least two months of preparation.

Army General Martin Dempsey also says U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was not the target of the morning attack, which killed one American soldier and wounded 15 other people.

Mr. Wolfowitz was inside the heavily guarded al-Rashid Hotel when General Dempsey says eight to 10 rockets struck the tall building, damaging several floors. Mr. Wolfowitz escaped injury.

Speaking to reporters in the Iraqi capital, General Dempsey said he believes the attack was timed to coincide with two events Saturday - the lifting of a curfew ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the opening of an important bridge in the city.

Mr. Wolfowitz, regarded by many as the architect of the U.S.-led war against terrorism, appeared shaken after the attack. He told reporters the incident will not deter the United States' mission to stabilize Iraq and protect Americans helping with the country's reconstruction.

It was the defense official's second close call in two days. The first was Saturday, when attackers with rocket-propelled grenades shot down a U.S. Army helicopter near Tikrit, hours after Mr. Wolfowitz concluded a visit with troops in the area. American military officials confirmed eyewitness reports Sunday. Earlier, they said the helicopter was hit after it landed.

Mr. Wolfowitz was in the third day of a four-day visit to Iraq. General Dempsey said the hotel attack was being planned before the defense official's travel plans were made public.

The al-Rashid Hotel is located near the headquarters of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and is home to many U.S. military personnel and civilians stationed in Iraq. The entire area has been under heavy security.

General Dempsey said the rockets were fired from what he described as a "primitive" but "clever" launcher disguised as a common power generator. The launcher was parked on a busy street 400 meters from the hotel. It is not clear how many rockets had been pointed at the hotel, but 11 failed to fire.

Among the wounded are seven American civilians, four U.S. soldiers, and four civilians from non-coalition countries. One of those is a British citizen.