- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

BAGHDAD — Guerrillas struck a glancing but bold blow at the heart of the U.S. occupation yesterday, firing three rockets or grenades at a Baghdad hotel filled with American soldiers and civilians. To the west, in flashpoint Fallujah, U.S. troops killed at least two Iraqi civilians.

The U.S. military said the Fallujah victims had tried to run a checkpoint, but later altered that to say the Iraqis had fired on American soldiers. Wounded survivors said the American fire was unprovoked and came from troops lying in ambush. They said four Iraqis were killed, including two women.

The U.S. administration would like to have thousands of additional non-American troops to help relieve the Iraq security burden on the U.S. Army. “All nations of good will should do their part as well,” President Bush said in a radio address yesterday.

The attack on the al-Rashid Hotel, once one of Baghdad’s best and now home to U.S. military officers and civilian occupation officials, came at about 6:30 a.m., when someone fired three or four projectiles, apparently from a nearby residential area, U.S. military spokesmen said.

Rounds struck the 14th floor and caused superficial damage, said Charles Heatley, spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Another round struck a one-story private home near the hotel, leaving a sizable hole. No injuries were reported.

“It did wake us up with a bang,” Mr. Heatley said. But “we are not unduly concerned about this.”

It was, nonetheless, the most daring known attack by resistance fighters on the so-called “green zone,” a heavily guarded area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad where U.S. occupation authorities live and work.

The modern, 200-foot-tall hotel stands hundreds of yards from high, earth-filled barriers ringing that section of the zone, site also of the coalition press office at the Baghdad Convention Center and of the headquarters of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

A spokesman, Lt. Col. George Krivo, said the U.S. military had not immediately determined the nature of the projectiles. Residents of the Salhiya neighborhood west of the complex said a rocket launcher was fired from the middle of the street and was left behind as the attackers fled. Mr. Heatley said he was not aware of any arrests.

At the eastern edge of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division manning a position on the eastbound side of the main highway to the capital opened fire on a motorbike and then a following pickup truck headed west into Fallujah, survivors said.

Haidar Jamil, 17, wounded in the left leg and back, said from his hospital bed that his father, mother and grandmother were killed in the truck. A fourth person, a man on the motorbike, also was killed, said Capt. Taha al-Falahi, security chief of the Fallujah General Hospital. He said at least five other people were wounded, including a child.

Col. Krivo said his reports were that two were killed and four wounded.

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