Details are emerging from the weekend's deadly attack on the al-Rashid hotel in Baghdad that injured 16 people and barely missed Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz:
The missiles were launched from an improvised multirocket platform, a homemade version of the Katyusha system used by Russia, military officials said. The Irish Republican Army has used similar systems.The launcher was hidden in a blue trailer made to resemble a mobile electricity generator, a ubiquitous item in Baghdad, where electrical service is unreliable. In the quiet of early Sunday morning, a white passenger vehicle towed the trailer down a major street that runs between the hotel and a large park. It was then unhitched at a cloverleaf that had been closed by the Americans for security reasons. The car pulled away. Soon after, at 6:08 a.m., 8 to 10 missiles thudded into the hotel, about 450 yards away, officials said.The casualties could have been higher; 11 missiles failed to fire because of electrical or mechanical malfunctions. In addition, the wheel base of the trailer had been booby-trapped with explosives, which American soldiers deactivated.Altogether, the launcher held 40 missile pods, said Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the First Armored Division, whose responsibility is the security of Baghdad. General Dempsey spoke Sunday evening at a news conference held in a building in a compound near the Rashid Hotel.Half the missiles were 68-millimeter, which have a range of two to three miles; the other half were 85-millimeter, with a three- to four-mile range, he said. The smaller ones were French-made, and designed for use by helicopters. The others were Russian. The French rockets, officers said, were quite new, and were probably purchased after the arms embargo was in place. They were in pristine condition,'' said one military officer who inspected the rocket tubes and assembly.Mr. Hussein had weapons of that type, but General Dempsey said he did not know if the missiles used the hotel attack came from Mr. Hussein's arsenal.General Dempsey described the device as clever, but not sophisticated.'' He called it a science project in a garage with a welder and a battery and a handful of wires.''That such an unsophisticated device could be used against one of the most fortified and well-guarded sites in Baghdad raised questions about the military's ability to secure any major site in Baghdad. The compound is surrounded by high concrete walls, but the missiles were fired over them...A New York Times reporter traveling with Mr. Wolfowitz was a few rooms from where one of the rockets hit. Looking across the street, he saw the trailer from which the rockets had been fired, and saw one projectile coming at the hotel, trailing sparks.The Times also reports that bombings at five police stations and the Baghdad office of the Red Cross have killed 34 people and wounded 224 more."It puts us back into combat operations," Lt. Col. Eric Nantz, a battalion commander with the 82nd Airborne Division's 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, tells the Washington Post. "It's not where we want to be. It's not where the Iraqi people want us to be."