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Suspected al-Qaida bomb levels Baghdad hotel
UPI ^ | 3-17-04 | Mitchell Prothero

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.


TOPICS: Breaking News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iraq; mountlebanon

1 posted on 03/17/2004 6:29:56 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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To: Cap Huff; Boot Hill; Angelus Errare; Coop; swarthyguy
The quicker we get Zarqawi the better..
2 posted on 03/17/2004 6:33:43 PM PST by Dog
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To: Indy Pendance
This just happen?
3 posted on 03/17/2004 6:35:16 PM PST by CindyDawg
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To: Indy Pendance
Demonstrate that the US cannot provide security. Attack moderates who might cooperate. Hope that the US and Iraqis cooperating with the US will retaliate against innocents, to recruit from the revenge pool.

This has worked in other countries.

4 posted on 03/17/2004 6:36:04 PM PST by secretagent
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To: CindyDawg
This is the first story I've seen that links this possibility.
5 posted on 03/17/2004 6:36:52 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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To: Indy Pendance
typical muslim terrorist operation, they soil their own nests.
6 posted on 03/17/2004 6:38:28 PM PST by rageaholic
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To: Dog
It wouldn't hurt if there was such a thing as "the collective anger of the Iraqi people" to these attacks of Muslim/Iraquis against Muslim/Iraquis.
7 posted on 03/17/2004 6:39:29 PM PST by Lawgvr1955 (I am not completely worthless; I can always serve as a "bad example".)
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To: Indy Pendance
Oh, ok. I just got here and didn't see anything else. With the difference in time zone I thought it might have just happened. Any updates on injuries?
8 posted on 03/17/2004 6:46:51 PM PST by CindyDawg
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To: Indy Pendance
As "culturally insensitive" as it may be, perhaps the pork option isn't a bad idea. How about just protecting targets with a vat of pork fat encased in plastic. It's less offensive than shooting them with pork, yet at the same time, we let it be known that they will be covered in swine if they try a suicide routine.
9 posted on 03/17/2004 6:46:59 PM PST by dogbyte12
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To: CindyDawg
Last I read, 28 dead, 41 wounded.
10 posted on 03/17/2004 6:49:10 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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To: CindyDawg
No, it happened this morning. This post may actually eliminate the need to wallow through the 1000+ post "live" thread on the incident, where you have the usual FReeper personal attacks in every other post.

I'm not being sarcastic.

11 posted on 03/17/2004 6:59:51 PM PST by New Horizon
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To: New Horizon
Yeah I found it after posting but mostly chat now. I went back several posts and didn't see any updates.
12 posted on 03/17/2004 7:02:45 PM PST by CindyDawg
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To: Dog
He's been linked to the Madrid atrocities as well --- no surprise.
13 posted on 03/17/2004 7:04:35 PM PST by Cap Huff
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To: Indy Pendance
This doesn't make any sense at all. I really do think it was a case of premature detonation. This is not an area worth targeting with that size bomb. The hotel only had between 10 and 15 guests and they were basically Arab, and the rest was homes. I think something happened to a truck bomb that was intended to detonate some place where they would kill far more than 25 people.

This thing looks more like a mistake than an intentional bombing. Stupid target, waste of a suicide bomber, it just doesn't make sense.

14 posted on 03/17/2004 7:07:52 PM PST by McGavin999 (Evil thrives when good men do nothing!)
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To: McGavin999
I tend to agree..
15 posted on 03/17/2004 7:10:13 PM PST by Dog ("I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." John Kerry, March 16, 2004)
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To: Dog
"The quicker we get Zarqawi the better."

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.

--Boot Hill

16 posted on 03/17/2004 7:14:14 PM PST by Boot Hill (Candy-gram for Osama bin Mongo, candy-gram for Osama bin Mongo!)
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To: dogbyte12
I'm not too worried about being offensive. Blast 'em with pork. I'm sick of their crap. Maybe we could use pork grease like Holy Water at the borders, everyone that goes through has to get a dab.
17 posted on 03/17/2004 7:20:03 PM PST by WV Mountain Mama (John Kerry is a world class NUMB NUTS. His facial wrinkles are NUMB and all his ideas are NUTS!)
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To: dogbyte12
As "culturally insensitive" as it may be, perhaps the pork option isn't a bad idea.

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.

18 posted on 03/17/2004 7:23:01 PM PST by New Horizon
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To: McGavin999
...looks more like a mistake than an intentional bombing

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)

19 posted on 03/17/2004 8:50:05 PM PST by Poincare
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To: New Horizon
This post may actually eliminate the need to wallow through the 1000+ post "live" thread on the incident, where you have the usual FReeper personal attacks in every other post. I'm not being sarcastic.

No, you're just exaggerating greatly.

20 posted on 03/18/2004 4:37:00 AM PST by Coop ("Hero" is the last four-letter word I'd use to describe John Kerry)
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To: McGavin999; Dog
This thing looks more like a mistake than an intentional bombing. Stupid target, waste of a suicide bomber, it just doesn't make sense.

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.

21 posted on 03/18/2004 4:38:23 AM PST by Coop ("Hero" is the last four-letter word I'd use to describe John Kerry)
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To: Boot Hill
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.

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.

22 posted on 03/18/2004 4:39:45 AM PST by Coop ("Hero" is the last four-letter word I'd use to describe John Kerry)
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To: Coop
"That's a bit too general of a statement..."

Fair observation.

--Boot Hill

23 posted on 03/18/2004 5:30:41 AM PST by Boot Hill (Candy-gram for Osama bin Mongo, candy-gram for Osama bin Mongo!)
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To: Dog; Angelus Errare
I tending to think maybe this was a premature explosion.

The Palestine Hotel makes far more sense as a target filled with high value Westerners and media types.

And, something that was pretty much ignored in the US press, was the jihadi attack on the media centre in Srinagar Kashmir. It burnt to the ground, the attack almost killing Euro and Indian media staff.

Just a thought.
24 posted on 03/18/2004 10:01:22 AM PST by swarthyguy
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