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Rockets Fired From Donkey Carts Hit Symbolic Sites in Iraq

BY Admin  November 21, 2003 at 12:51 PM EST

The attacks came a day after five people were killed and an estimated 30 wounded when a suicide car bomb detonated near the offices of a U.S.-allied Kurdish political party in the northern city of Kirkuk.

The Friday incidents took place about 7:20 a.m. local time. An unknown number of rockets punctured the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists and American workers are staying, and the Sheraton Hotel across the street. A man was carried out of the Palestine Hotel bleeding, but no other injuries were reported.

About eight rockets were fired at the Oil Ministry but only two detonated, said Col. Peter Mansoor of the U.S. 1st Armored Division. The ministry was closed Friday for the Muslim day of prayer and no injuries were reported. A fire there was quickly extinguished, and oil production is not expected to be affected.

Police and soldiers found a rocket launcher mounted on a donkey cart near the Palestine Hotel. It had the capacity to fire 30 rockets, though it was unclear how many were launched, and five unfired rockets remained, the Associated Press reported. Two other donkey carts with rocket launchers that had not been fired were found in the Waziriya neighborhood north of downtown Baghdad.

Donkey carts are commonly used in Baghdad to carry produce and other goods from outerlying areas. They also carry metal containers of kerosene and diesel fuel, according to The Washington Post.

“They would certainly have an element of surprise by having a donkey cart,” said Col. Brad May, commander of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “They try and continue to get one step ahead of us. They’re going to use varying techniques.”

The sites of Friday’s attacks are heavily fortified. The hotels have several security checkpoints, blast barriers on surrounding streets and U.S. armored personnel carriers stationed outside.

The attacks were seen as an act of defiance of the U.S. military crackdown on suspected areas of insurgency. Military officials have credited the stepped up counterattacks, dubbed “Operation Iron Hammer,” as contributing to a 70 percent decline in rebel activity.

No arrests have been made in connection to the rocket attacks.

Local officials blamed Thursday’s truck bombing in Kirkuk on Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida. The explosion shattered windows and damaged doors at a two-story building housing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

At about the same time, two truck bombs exploded at a London-based bank and British consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 400.

In other events this week, a U.S. soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others wounded Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded next to their convoy near the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

On Wednesday night, a car bomb exploded near the offices of the local council in Ramadi, killing two people and wounding 11, including the council leader. Witnesses said it was a suicide attack, but police were unable to confirm it.

Hungary’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that U.S. troops shot and killed a Hungarian civilian in Iraq on Monday after he failed to slow his car down, despite calls to stop and warning shots, while approaching a checkpoint west of Baghdad, Reuters reported.