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Ministry Building Hit In Baghdad
Associated Press
March 29, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's Information Ministry building was damaged but not destroyed Saturday after being targeted by U.S. missiles. The strike came a day after a bomb blast in a crowded marketplace that Iraqi officials said killed at least 58 civilians.

The U.S. military command said the Information Ministry was targeted before dawn by Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The building remained standing and did not appear to have suffered any structural damage. But many of the satellite dishes on the roof - used by foreign TV crews - were damaged, and glass from broken windows was strewn in the hallways.

Many of the foreign TV reporters still in Baghdad have been working from a parking area opposite the ministry for fear of an attack on the building. In anticipation of a bombing, ministry workers moved computers, printers, TVs and video editing equipment into warehouses.

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf said 58 people were killed - and many others wounded - in the explosion Friday evening at the Al-Nasr market in the working-class district of al-Shoala.

Witnesses said the bombing took place around 6 p.m., when the market was at its busiest. They said they saw an aircraft flying high overhead just before the blast.

The market was strewn with wreckage and there were bloodstains on a sidewalk. Blood-soaked children's slippers lay on the street near a crater blasted into the ground.

"Why do they make mistakes like these if they have the technology?" asked Abdel-Hadi Adai, who said he lost his 27-year-old brother-in-law in the blast. "There are no military installations anywhere near here."

The U.S. Central Command in Qatar, which has denied that coalition forces target civilian neighborhoods, said it was looking into the incident.

Iraqi officials have blamed U.S. forces for explosions at another market that killed 14 people Wednesday. U.S. officials suggested that blast might have been caused by an errant Iraqi surface-to-air missile, or even staged deliberately by Iraqi authorities seeking to discredit the United States.

Sahhaf said civilians were being targeted because Iraqi troops had defeated coalition forces in battles. "These are cowardly air raids," he told Lebanon's Al-Hayat LBC satellite television.

Iraqi state television, meanwhile, said three Iraqis had been arrested for spying for the United States, alleging they were assigned to inspect areas of Baghdad that had been attacked to determine if they needed to be hit again.

The report identified the men as Ibrahim Abdel Qader, Ghareeb Ahmed Hamadeh and Hussein Shahed. Qader was quoted as saying he was given about two pounds of TNT from "foreigners - Americans," and Shahed said he was recruited by an American he identified as "Gen. Mike" who was from the CIA.

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Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.







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