Rockets fired at hotels from donkey carts

Rockets fired from donkey carts slammed into Iraq’s Oil Ministry and two hotels used by US workers and foreign journalists in Baghdad today injuring at least one man.

Rockets fired from donkey carts slammed into Iraq’s Oil Ministry and two hotels used by US workers and foreign journalists in Baghdad today injuring at least one man.

In simultaneous attacks just after 7 am, attackers led donkey carts carrying rocket launchers into a street near the hotels and another outside the Oil Ministry, said Colonel Peter Mansoor of the US 1st Armoured Division.

Eight rockets hit the Oil Ministry, although only two of them detonated. One rocket hit the Palestine Hotel and another hit the next-door Sheraton.

But at least five rocket impacts could be seen at the Palestine Hotel, on the eighth, 15th and 16th floors of the 18-storey structure.

One man was carried out on a stretcher, bleeding from his head. Doctors had attached an intravenous tube.

On Saadoun Street, which runs alongside the Palestine Hotel, police and soldiers discovered a rocket-launcher on a donkey cart with a capacity to fire 30 rockets.

Iraqi police spokesman Amar Arshad said at least three rockets were fired, and five more were unfired in the rocket-launcher.

Mansoor said another rocket-launcher, also on a donkey cart, was found near the Oil Ministry, which was closed for Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.

Witnesses reported hearing five explosions at about 7:30 a.m., and thick black smoke poured from the heavily guarded compound. Fire engines moved about the ministry and US soldiers kept journalists away.

At the Palestine Hotel, one of the rockets left a hole in the wall of the 16th floor, and a 15th-floor room appeared to have been hit as well. Another impact was on the eighth floor.

“My neighbour’s room was hit pretty bad,” said Steven Akana, 49, a contractor with a US company who is staying on the 15th floor.

Several windows were shattered in the 18-floor building.

There were also broken windows on the top floors of the Sheraton across the street. An elevator appeared to have been damaged.

The Sheraton once belonged to the US chain, but is operated by Iraqis, like the Palestine, which was formerly part of the Meridian hotel chain.

The hotels are among the best-protected in Baghdad, with several security checkpoints on the approaches, blast barriers on surrounding streets and US armoured personnel carriers stationed outside. They stand in front of Firdaus Square, where Iraqis famously toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9.

The Palestine Hotel, which housed most foreign journalists in Iraq during the war, was shelled by a US tank on April 8, killing two cameramen, one from Spain and one from Ukraine.

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