Skip to comments.Suspected al-Qaida bomb levels Baghdad hotel
Posted on 03/17/2004 6:29:55 PM PST by Indy Pendance
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 18 (UPI) -- A bomb completely destroyed a hotel Wednesday in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood with an explosion so massive that an al-Qaida-affiliated group was immediately blamed.
While fires were still burning at the Mount Lebanon Hotel, U.S. military officials were already blaming Ansar al-Islam -- a group thought to have ties to Osama bin Laden's network. The explosion -- triggered by what one U.S. official told United Press International was a car or truck bomb in excess of 1,000 pounds -- was among the largest seen in downtown Baghdad since last summer's bombing of the United Nation's Headquarters.
According to one coalition official who visited the scene within an hour of the blast, the explosion left a huge crater and destroyed not only the hotel, but surrounding buildings as well.
"Total devastation," he told UPI, under the condition his name not be used. "The face of the building was sheered off, and the second and third floors were completely destroyed. The fourth is on fire. I've never seen anything like it in my six months in Baghdad."
Ansar al-Islam -- a militant Islamist group -- had been based in northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion a year ago this Saturday. After Kurdish forces and U.S. air strikes destroyed its base camp, Ansar is thought to have filtered throughout Iraq and has been working with other anti-U.S. forces to disrupt the occupation and the rebuilding of the shattered country.
According to coalition authorities, its reported leader, a Jordanian called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, sent a letter to bin Laden associates requesting additional assistance in starting a civil war in Iraq to destroy the American occupation. In that letter -- which U.S. forces later released to the media -- Zarqawi took credit for 25 terror attacks against coalition and Iraqi targets. As a result of this and other intelligence, U.S. officials have made him the most wanted man in Iraq with a $10 million bounty for his capture or death.
The bomb -- which the military sources suspect was a mixture of high-grade plastic explosives and leftover artillery shells -- left a 10-foot deep crater nearby the hotel itself.
Hospital officials told UPI that at least 25 people were dead and scores more were wounded, including 41 at the nearest hospital. Even as military vehicles cordoned off the area immediately after the attack, flames and smoke could be seen throughout the city.
The hotel catered to mostly Arab and local businessmen, although coalition sources confirm some Westerners are among the wounded and dead. These sources would not comment on whether those were Coalition Provisional Authority employees, contractors or journalists.
The hotel -- located on a busy street in the upper-income mostly Shiite district of Karrada -- did lack substantial security measures seen in most Baghdad hotels that cater to Western contractors or journalists. Most of those hotels have huge concrete blast walls, multiple vehicle checkpoints, armed security guards and floodlights to blind oncoming vehicles. In the case of the Mount Lebanon, the hotel's location on a major thoroughfare -- situated close to the road -- made many of these provisions impossible. But from outside appearances, it even seemed to lack armed guards.
The local neighborhood was devastated by the blast with reports that several local homes were destroyed. At nearby hospitals, a seemingly endless procession of casualties and concerned family members entered and exited looking for news or treatment. Several people hurt in the blast could be seen wandering the neighborhood crying for missing relatives and tending to serious injuries.
Although some local eyewitnesses claim that the damage was by an errant missile aimed by resistance fighters at coalition targets -- one even claimed a U.S. helicopter targeted the building intentionally -- officials were emphatic that the damage had to have come from a vehicle bomb, a thesis supported by the size of the explosion and gravity of damage.
In recent months, the overall trend in Iraq has been one of withdrawal to hardened facilities by coalition officials and military forces, and hotels have had time to put drastic security measures into place. This has left limited targets for anti-coalition forces, which seem to now emphasize attacks on softer targets.
The situation often leaves Iraqis or other Arabs to be targeted the most and suffer the worst casualties as they live and work in more vulnerable areas. And with increased difficulty in finding the coalition military forces to attack, and most Westerners living in blast-proof compounds -- the locals offer the most available and softest targets. In February's back-to-back attacks on a local police center and an Iraqi army recruiting line, more than 100 people were killed.
When anti-coalition forces target Westerners, the most common attacks have seemed almost random targets of opportunity on unarmed or lightly protected groups. Last week, a women's rights lawyer, Baptist missionaries and German water project engineers were killed in Iraq. Some victims were armed or protected by Iraqi police, but none traveled in heavily armed convoys.
This has worked in other countries.
I'm not being sarcastic.
This thing looks more like a mistake than an intentional bombing. Stupid target, waste of a suicide bomber, it just doesn't make sense.
Problem is, our best asset for capturing Zarqawi (and Ibrahim al-Douri), is the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which is currently assigned to Afghanistan to hunt down bin Laden, Zawahiri and Omar.
Do you really think that would be a deterrent?
Some imam or mullah would immediately create some addendum to the quran declaring that it would be acceptable to be intermingled with pig-parts in any attempt to defeat the evil Crusaders.
These freaks just make it up as they go. Just like mohammed did while he was raping 9 year old girls and gleefully killing the infidels.
If the muslims are so afraid of pigs, we should be flying in millions of swine as opposed to 200,000 troops...or making a bunch of pork laden cluster-bombs, or something.
I think this whole pig argument is probably overrated...but I wish it wasn't because I'd rather never eat bacon, pork-roast, or anything pig-related ever again than to see one more of our troops die fighting these assholes.
Reminds me of the Weatherman townhouse explosion. Getting 1000 pounds plus of plastique and shells into a car is difficult not to mention making the car undrivable. I wonder if some stored munitions went off. ( The CBS evening news acted as if this "resistance" action refuted Cheney's critique of Kerry. Sheesh)
No, you're just exaggerating greatly.
Soft target, they can't get near the high-value ones, and it's the one-year anniversary celebration. Plus they're just coming off the signing of the Iraqi Constitution. The evil cowards had to make a deadly statement.
That's a bit too general of a statement, IMHO. There are plenty of well-trained resources still in country and hunting down Zarqawi and al-Douri.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.