The rocket attack early Sunday against the heavily guarded al-Rasheed hotel in a coalition-controlled zone of Baghdad was likely planned months in advance, according to the U.S. commander in charge of Baghdad. The attack killed one U.S. soldier and wounded at least 17 other people. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was inside the hotel at the time, but was not injured. Later Sunday, two explosions were heard near the hotel.
General Martin Dempsey of the 1st Armored Division said the attack was carried out with the use of a homemade rocket launcher, disguised as a generator, towed by vehicle to the area where the rockets were fired.
The launcher was capable of firing 40 rockets and was discovered about 400-meters away from the hotel on a side street. Eleven rockets not fired were found in the launcher. Eight to ten rockets hit the hotel.
The general said the attack was well planned. "I think there's no doubt that it required some reconnaissance and some rehearsal. It probably took some period of time to weld this apparatus together, and probably it required a rehearsal to pull it into position in the time that they believed they had to position it. So, there is no question that it required some degree of preparation, probably lasting a couple of months would be my estimation," he said.
The general said he believes the attack was designed to discredit Saturday's re-opening of a major bridge in Baghdad and the lifting of a curfew during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The number of attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi security personnel have been rising during the past several weeks. And, with the latest attack involving a mobile rocket launcher, the general was asked if anyone in Baghdad is safe. "Those working the hardest for the Iraqi people may be less safe than those that do not care about the Iraqi people. Now, it depends which camp you want to be counted in. We choose to be counted in the camp that is trying to help the Iraqi people. If you do that, then you will be targeted, because, lets face it, there are any number of different kinds of organizations, none of which are overwhelmingly large, but all of which are somewhat passionate about what they are doing, who will target you for being in the camp that stands for an idea and stands for the Iraqi people," he said.
When asked why any Iraqi would want to side with the coalition knowing they may be targeted as a result, the general said there is a portion of the population that wants to be a part of Iraq's future, not of its past.
General Dempsey said there is no indication of foreign fighters in Iraq. He indicated some supporters of the former Iraq regime may attempt to use the holy month of Ramadan as a cover to plan and carry out more attacks.