Presidential palace suffers new bombings

THE presidential Old Palace complex on the west bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad has come under renewed attack from US forces after they secured the city’s international airport yesterday.

A missile slammed into central Baghdad at 10.45pm (7.45pm Irish time) last night, shortly after a plane overflew the capital and drew heavy anti-aircraft fire.

A large explosion rocked a presidential complex in central Baghdad used by President Saddam Hussein’s son Qusay yesterday evening as the capital’s south-eastern suburbs came under intensive bombing, sending red streaks into the night sky, witnesses said.

The complex has been hit several times before during the 16-day bombing campaign by US warplanes aimed at toppling Saddam.

Heavy machine-gun fire reverberated through the centre of Baghdad late last night as US forces tightened their grip. Flashes from what appeared to be machine guns could be seen from the southern end of the presidential Old Palace complex on the west bank of the Tigris River.

Electricity came back on late yesterday in parts of central Baghdad, one day after it went out across the city amid heavy bombing, a reporter in the Iraqi capital said.

Street lamps glowed again in the Republic district at the main presidential palace as night set in over the city, and private homes and businesses in the area had their power restored.

It was not possible to tell to what extent other areas of the capital were back on line. The electricity had been out for nearly 24 hours in the city of five million, leaving residents scrambling to buy the last remaining generators in the capital at exorbitant prices and compromising the water supply.

The US Defence Department said it had not targeted the power grid and could not explain why the power had been cut. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday it was alarmed by the impact the blackout could have on Baghdad hospitals as US troops massed at the city’s doorstep.

“The total interruption of electricity on the first day of the battle of Baghdad could lead to a catastrophic situation in the hospitals,” Peter Tarbula, medical co-ordinator of the ICRC in Baghdad, said.

The 30 hospitals in the capital would have to rely on generators and will not last for long.

“If, after the electricity, the water is cut in the capital, it will be a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

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