Menu

U.S. Officials Respond to Hotel Attack

The Defense Department (searchsaid Sunday there was no indication that a rocket attack on a Baghdad hotel where U.S. officials live had targeted the Pentagon's No. 2 official.

Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search), said members of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's (searchparty had told him by telephone Sunday they believed none among them, including members of the press traveling with Wolfowitz during a visit to Iraq, were injured.

The attack against the Al Rashid hotel killed a U.S. colonel and wounded 18 people, including seven American civilians and four U.S. military personnel. The attackers drove a launcher, disguised to look like a portable generator, to the edge of a park near the hotel and fled.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called it a brazen attack and announced that a State Department employee was among the wounded.

Di Rita said members of the Wolfowitz party were very close to the area of the hotel that was struck but there was no indication the attack was directed at Wolfowitz.

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iraqi officials with whom Wolfowitz had met earlier told him that his presence in the Iraqi capital was well known.

The Defense officials mentioned no particular threat, but the occupation authorities warned this weekend that an attack was expected on a hotel in the district where the Al Rashid is.

Wolfowitz was completing a tour to assess ways to defeat a stubborn 6-month-old insurgency.

The Army general whose division is responsible for Baghdad security said he believed the attack was timed to discredit the U.S. opening of a bridge over the Tigris River and the lifting of a nighttime curfew in the capital.

A senior FBI official said the bureau, the Defense Department, the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Iraqi police were conducting a joint investigation.

The official said investigators will seek to find people who might have seen the trailer driven up, the attackers run off or the device being constructed.

The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said he has asked for "a complete investigation into this ... and my security people are looking at it."

"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," he told "Fox News Sunday."

Bremer, who returned to Washington and made the rounds of the Sunday news shows, was to brief President Bush at the White House on Monday morning, White House officials said.

While praising the progress in rebuilding Iraq since the war, Powell acknowledged "a dangerous situation" and said he saw "remnants of the old regime and some terrorists who do not want to see democracy, do not want to see the people enjoying a better life."

"We have much work ahead of us, and we will not shrink from this work," Powell said told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We'll have to get the security situation under control," he said.

Powell said the Bush administration knew postwar security would be a challenge, but "we didn't expect it would be quite this intense this long."

Bremer said that "as long as we are there, and we have this job of putting security back in place there, we will have people attacking us."

He said there is "a major terrorist problem in Iraq. We are on the front, unfortunately, of the war on terrorism now. It's there, and we're going to have to defeat the terrorists there."

He said, "Look, it can't be fun to be occupied. And it's not very much fun, frankly, being an occupying power. But the fact is, life is much better for the Iraqis today than it was six months ago and much better than it was a year ago. And they know that."

Congressional Democrats again took issue with the administration's postwar policy.

"We ought to acknowledge that there's a real problem there and not try to just paint the rosy scenario, which too many members of this administration have painted," Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during a television interview.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the fact that "the opposition -- the terrorists, the insurgents -- fired rockets at the hotel where Paul Wolfowitz was and got away with it is just shocking.

"I mean, why aren't we protecting the perimeter? Where did they get those sophisticated rockets?" he asked on CBS' "Face the Nation."