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.