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
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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