Ramadan in Iraq: 5 suicide attacks in 1 hour

Monday, October 27, 2003

Sunni insurgents aligned with the former regime of Saddam Hussein launched a Ramadan offensive Monday against the U.S. military presence in Baghdad.

The insurgents carried out five nearly-simultaneous suicide attacks on Western and Iraqi government interests in Baghdad . Up to 18 people were killed in the five car bombings, the largest of which was an ambulance packed with explosives and one of which failed to explodes.

U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saddam loyalists have cooperated with Al Qaida insurgents to launch an intensive campaign during the Islamic fast month of Ramadan, when anti-Western passions in the Middle East are at their peak. They said the campagin would target the U.S.-led coalition and the new Iraqi government.

An Iraqi ambulance filled with explosives tried to enter the compound that contained the International Committee of the Red Cross and an Iraqi school. The ambulance rammed into a barrier and exploded. At least 10 people were killed in the blast, Middle East Newsline reported.

Over the next hour, other bombs were detonated in front of Iraqi government offices and police stations. Another eight people, including Iraqi officers, were said to have been killed in those attacks.

Iraqi authorities foiled one attack against a major police station in the Shaab district of eastern Baghdad. Officials said a Land Cruiser with three Arab passengers and packed with explosives crashed into the cement barrier of the police compound. The vehicle failed to explode.

Earlier, three U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in the Baghdad area.

"We didn't expect it would be quite this intense this long," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said before Monday's attacks.

The Sunni campaign has introduced new weapons in the attacks on Baghdad. They include the firing of up to 10 Soviet-origin 68 mm and 85 mm artillery rockets from a make-shift 40-pod launcher in a strike on a Baghdad hotel that contained U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz escaped harmed in Sunday's attack, but a U.S. colonel was killed.

Authorities were said to suspect a Saddam loyalist of having tipped off Sunni insurgents to Wolfowitz's presence in the hotel.

"Why haven't the number of attacks gone down?" U.S. Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the 1st Armored Division said. "I don't know the answer to that. We're still trying to figure out exactly why that happened."

In response to the rocket attack, the Coalition Provisional Authority withdrew from its headquarters in the 18-story Rashid Hotel. Officials said the CPA would be scattered in offices in a district along the Tigris River that contains the Iraqi Governing Council.

"Obviously, the security of our people and I have several hundred people who work for me staying in the Rashid has got to be an important factor in what we do next," CPA chief Paul Bremer said.

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