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Baghdad Rocket Attacks 'Part of Larger Plan', says US Military - 2003-11-21

In Iraq, the U.S. military says Friday's rocket attacks on the oil ministry and two hotels in central Baghdad were part of a larger plan by its opponents to cause widespread damage and casualties.

The U.S. military says the early morning rocket attacks were aimed at the oil ministry and the 20-story Palestine Hotel, where a number of U.S. officials and foreign journalists are based.

The military says the Sheraton Hotel, which faces the Palestine on the east bank of the Tigris River, was hit inadvertently by a stray rocket.

Approximately eight rockets hit the oil ministry shortly after seven o'clock in the morning local time. Minutes later, at least three rockets slammed into the Palestine Hotel a few kilometers away.

An American contractor staying at the Palestine Hotel was seriously injured in the attack. He was being flown to a military hospital in Germany.

Coalition military spokesman, U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, says all of the rockets were fired from launchers hidden on donkey carts, placed within easy range of the targets.

"I've been told that [in] one of the donkey carts, the multiple rocket launch system they had on it was disguised as a generator. These are ingenious people," he said.

After news of the attacks was broadcast in the city, General Kimmitt says soldiers and local residents found that the attackers were trying to use two more donkeys to help in attacks.

One donkey was attached to a cart carrying launchers packed with rockets.

Another donkey was tied to a tree near a law school affiliated with Baghdad University. General Kimmitt says that donkey had explosives and propane gas tanks strapped to its body. Soldiers managed to defuse the bomb.

In recent months, insurgents across Iraq have mounted increasingly bold attacks on coalition troops, foreign organizations and Iraqis working with the U.S. led administration.

In response, the U.S. military has launched a series of aggressive search and destroy operations to crush the insurgency. Using heavy artillery, mortars, tanks, and satellite-guided bombs, U.S. troops have been pounding suspected insurgent hideouts for days.

But with anti-coalition attacks still continuing, General Kimmitt acknowledged Friday that the military needs more than high-tech weapons to quell the violence. He says the lack of good local information has hampered coalition efforts to prevent some of the attacks.

"Does that allow donkeys to sneak in and fire rockets? Yes," said General Kimmitt. "But our intelligence is getting better every day. We'll continue to fight for it. We'll continue to work with the Iraqis to earn it and we'll continue to fight this with a high-tech army or a low-tech army."

U.S. forces say they have made progress in stopping attacks on U.S. troops. On Thursday, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, said that since the launch of the U.S. military crackdown on insurgents in the capital this month, there has been a 70 percent drop in attacks on U.S. forces in the city.