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Attackers Fire Mortar Rounds at Hotel in Iraqi Capital, No Casualties - 2003-12-24

Attackers in Iraq have fired a mortar round at a Baghdad hotel largely occupied by Western journalists and contractors. There are conflicting reports about whether it struck the hotel.

U.S. soldiers on patrol outside the Sheraton hotel say two men in separate vehicles launched a mortar round at the hotel from a few blocks away.

The soldiers say security guards at the nearby French embassy opened fire on the attackers, but they sped away.

The U.S. troops say the mortar missed the hotel, but a number of sources say it may have impacted the roof or an outside wall without doing much damage.

The Sheraton and the Palestine Hotel across the street are largely occupied by Western journalists and contractors working for the U.S.-led coalition. The hotels are surrounded by razor wire and guarded by American tanks, but last month they were attacked with rockets fired from donkey carts.

The latest close call came as coalition forces are bracing for an expected round of attacks coincidiing with the Christmas holiday. The U.S. military put on a massive show of force Tuesday night, hitting targets in southwest Baghdad with artillery and heavy machine-gun fire. Military sources indicate more raids were scheduled Wednesday night.