Rebel rockets strike Baghdad, killing one

Bremer's headquarters hit

2 U.S. soldiers die, 7 hurt in attack near Fallujah

March 22, 2004|By John Daniszewski | John Daniszewski,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In a rare daytime bombardment of a civilian area by insurgents, a rocket struck outside the city's International Trade Fair grounds yesterday, killing at least one passer-by and wounding 11, while an earlier attack west of Baghdad claimed the lives of two U.S. soldiers.

Four other rockets fell inside or near Baghdad's "Green Zone," the heavily fortified 4-square-mile district of former palaces and government buildings now being used as the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation authority and chief administrator L. Paul Bremer III. One soldier was reported to have received minor injuries.

The barrage yesterday morning seemed intended to send a message that Baghdad has not been completely pacified one year after the start of the U.S.-led war to oust former dictator Saddam Hussein.

For residents of Mansour, where the rocket hit, it was a case of deja vu. During the war, the neighborhood had been the target of intensive bombings by allied planes and rockets that demolished part of the Trade Fair - at the time occupied by Iraqi troops and anti-aircraft guns - as well as the nearby headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The Trade Fair was preparing its first postwar exhibition to attract international business. Sponsored by the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, the exhibition was scheduled to begin early next month.

The midmorning scene after the rocket landed seemed, on a much smaller scale, like a playback of the war: cars pierced by shrapnel, shattered glass on the asphalt, broken shop windows, rescuers picking up the bleeding wounded and rushing them to nearby Yarmuk Hospital.

And like one year ago, there was anger on the street directed at the United States. Residents held up fragments of the rocket, pointing to letters and numbers on the inside of the jagged casings that some vociferously declared proved that it was a U.S. - not a guerrilla - attack.

Others said they held the United States responsible because it has not been able to impose order since American troops arrived 11 months ago.

"This stinks," said a businessman in a brown wool suit and tie, who gave his name only as Mariati. "Innocent people walking by, their lives taken away."

"These actions are done now and then so that the Americans can have a pretext to stay in Iraq," chimed in Adnan Bakr, 35, a salesman from Basra.

At the hospital, Dr. Raad Abdul Sahed, 24, a doctor there during the war, had seen it all before. "I think it was a very shrewd idea of President Bush to transfer the war to Iraq and keep it away from your country," he said.

He said one Iraqi was killed and 11 wounded, one very seriously, in the attack. A statement released by the U.S. military said two people were killed and five wounded. There was no immediate way to reconcile the reports.

"This is occupation, not liberation," shouted Bayda Ahmad, 40, the aunt of taxi driver Ahmad Khalid Awad, 27, who lay in a hospital bed in blood-soaked clothing from a leg wound. "I think things were better under Saddam's regime."

At least two rockets hit in the vicinity of the Green Zone as Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt was conducting a news briefing.

There were few details given about the deaths of the two U.S. soldiers, who were killed around 8 p.m. Saturday at a base near Fallujah. Kimmitt said only that they were hit by three rockets. Six soldiers and a member of the Navy were wounded.

Several mortar rounds struck a U.S. military base near Ramadi, wounding three Marines. The Marines were being flown to Germany for treatment.

Kimmitt said U.S. investigators are looking into an incident in which two reporters for the Arab satellite network Al-Arabiya were shot dead, allegedly by U.S. soldiers near a checkpoint where troops killed an Iraqi driver who they feared might be a suicide bomber.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Alissa Rubin in Baghdad, Tony Perry in Ramadi and researcher Zaidoon Asim Abdul Wahab of the Baghdad bureau contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, 573 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations, and 2,868 U.S. service members have been wounded. Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 435 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest deaths

Two soldiers died Saturday in a rocket attack near Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

A 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed yesterday in an apparent accident during a weapons firing exercise in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Latest Identifications

Spc. Doron Chan, 20, Highland, N.Y.; died Thursday near Balad, Iraq, in a vehicle accident; assigned to the Army Reserve's 411th Engineer Brigade, New Windsor, N.Y.

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