Baghdad palace used by Americans comes under fire

4 hurt in explosions

U.S. soldier is killed in roadside bombing

November 05, 2003|By Alissa J. Rubin | Alissa J. Rubin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Three explosions rocked the heavily fortified presidential palace compound last night where many U.S. officials live and work, wounding four people in the second such attack on the complex in the Iraqi capital in 10 days.

Capt. David Romley of the Pentagon said the blasts were probably caused by mortar rounds launched into the compound. He said it was not known whether the injured were soldiers or civilians. It was not immediately clear whether any were Americans.

Early today, a U.S. Army compound in the northern city of Mosul was hit by rocket-propelled grenades, the military said. There were no casualties, according to the Associated Press.

On Oct. 26, insurgents fired into the 1-square-mile compound, hitting the Rashid Hotel, which is home to many American soldiers and civilian officials in the U.S.-led occupation administration. That attack, carried out with at least eight rockets, killed one person and wounded at least six.

In other violence yesterday, two coalition soldiers were reported killed. In Baghdad, one U.S. soldier was killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing. The military said all were from the 1st Armored Division. Their names were withheld pending notification of their families.

In southern Iraq, British officials said Cpl. Ian Plank, 31, was killed Friday by hostile fire.

The danger is prompting Spain, a U.S. ally that has contributed more than 1,000 troops to the coalition force in Iraq, to withdraw most of its diplomatic staff from Baghdad.

President Bush repeated his pledge to go after those attacking coalition soldiers and civilians in Iraq.

"We will continue to find the terrorists and bring them to justice. These people ... want us to retreat, they want us to leave, because they know that a free and peaceful Iraq in their midst will damage their cause," Bush said yesterday while touring areas damaged by the wildfires in California. The United States will "stay the course," he added.

Mortar attacks have become increasingly common in Iraq. They are a useful weapon for an enemy using guerrilla tactics, because they can be fired at a distance, giving attackers time to escape.

A U.S.-made 81 mm mortar, which weighs about 50 pounds and is similar to those used by the Iraqi military and now by insurgents, has a range of more than three miles.

An investigation into yesterday's incident was under way, officials said. Typically, the U.S. deploys a quick-reaction force to try to find the attackers.

"If you're lucky, you can figure out who did it, or at least what type of weapon system they used," a Defense Department official said.

The official conceded that mortar attacks are "difficult to defend against" because of the weapons' range.

Generally, the insurgents' mortar attacks have not been very accurate, though an August shelling on the U.S.-protected Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad killed six Iraqis and wounded nearly 60.

In addition to mortar attacks, assassinations of public figures are a growing concern. A judge was killed yesterday in Mosul, a day after another was abducted and executed in the southern city of Najaf.

The Najaf jurist, Najaf Muhan Jabr al-Shuwaili, was behind the creation of a judicial commission to investigate former officials of dictator Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.

Amid the violence, Jalal Talibani, chairman of Iraq's Governing Council, wrote a letter to the U.S. government on behalf of the 24-member council extending condolences and condemning the "terrorist attacks" that brought down a U.S. helicopter Sunday in Iraq, killing 16 soldiers and injuring 20.

"The attacks are obvious proof of the disappointment and frustration" of the anti-American forces, the letter said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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