Baghdad Hotels, Oil Ministry Hit by RPGs

Rockets launched from donkey carts. Explosives hidden in the carcasses of roadkill. Land mines taken apart and converted for attacks. Guerrillas in Iraq are borrowing tactics used by Palestinians, Afghans and others to press their fight against the U.S.-led occupation.

The U.S. military dismissed the tactics Friday as "militarily insignificant," though it acknowledged an "inventive, ingenious" adversary exploiting U.S. weaknesses.

In the latest sign of Iraqi ingenuity, guerrillas fired more than a dozen rockets from wooden donkey carts Friday at the Oil Ministry and two hotels used by international journalists and civilian defense contractors.

One civilian contractor was wounded when the rockets exploded at the Palestine Hotel (search) and at the nearby Sheraton. There were no casualties at the Oil Ministry, which was closed for the Muslim day of prayer.

Two more rocket launchers mounted on donkey carts were discovered in the Waziriya neighborhood, which includes several embassies and government offices. One donkey was carrying a propane canister wired with explosives, U.S. officials said.

Donkey carts are common on the streets of Baghdad, Cairo and other Middle Eastern cities and draw little attention. The cart used to fire on the hotels was on a major thoroughfare less than two blocks from a police station and about 200 yards from a U.S. Army guard post.

"They're trying to break our will. They're trying to seize the headlines ... but they're militarily insignificant," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search), the U.S. military deputy director for operations, said of Friday's attacks.

However, Kimmitt acknowledged the attacks point to "a very clever enemy who knows that we don't have the best intelligence in the world" and is cleverly exploiting "some vulnerabilities."

In London, Adam Sieminski, an oil analyst at Deutsche Bank, said the attack on the Oil Ministry appeared designed "to prove that the Americans can't guard everything and to make life difficult."

Although donkey carts may not register with most American soldiers as lethal weapons, animals have been used in attacks by the Palestinians, Lebanese and even in Colombia.

In September, a bomb strapped to a horse by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia exploded in northeast Colombia, killing eight people and wounding 20.

Iraqi insurgents have adopted other time-tested guerrilla techniques, modifying them as necessary.

Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (search), which patrols the Baghdad area, tell of a colleague who was about to remove the body of a dog from a roadside when he noticed small wires poking from the carcass. The dog's body was packed with explosives.

More often such roadside bombs — among the deadliest threats to U.S. soldiers — have been fashioned from innocuous-looking containers packed with explosives removed from artillery shells, land mines and other weapons taken from Iraqi arms depots that have not yet been properly secured. On Friday, the military reported the deaths of two more American soldiers killed by roadside bombs.

Last month, insurgents unleashed a rocket barrage on the Al-Rasheed Hotel, home to U.S. and coalition officials, from the back of a two-wheeled trailer fitted with a 40-pod rocket launcher.

Even in Baghdad, cruising the streets with a rocket launcher would attract attention, so the trailer was disguised to look like those used by Iraqis to transport generators in a city where power supplies are uneven.

The assailants parked the vehicle, unhitched the trailer and then drove away while an electrical timer set off the rockets. Such timers are often used in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fire on U.S. or Pakistani installations while the attackers make their escape.

After the Al-Rasheed attack, Brig. Gen. Mark Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, described the makeshift launcher as "a science project in a garage with a welder and a battery and a handful of wires."

But it was effective. A U.S. lieutenant colonel was killed and 18 other people were wounded. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (search) was in the hotel but escaped injury.

As the Americans get sharper in spotting such bombs, the Iraqis get more clever at disguising and rigging them. U.S. officers say some roadside bombs, referred to by the military as Improvised Explosive Devices (search), are rigged with secondary triggers. If the primary trigger is defused, the secondary sets off the explosion.

U.S. officers have received reports that Iraqi children are offered money to plant bombs, using magnets to affix them to the undersides of vehicles. That technique appeared in Pakistan during the fighting in nearby Afghanistan two years ago.

Another Iraqi trick is to fire a few grenades near U.S. troops to provoke a response. The attackers then lead pursuing Americans into an ambush — another tactic widely used by the Palestinians.

U.S. officials say some Iraqis have been coerced into parking cars rigged with explosives near U.S. positions while insurgents hold their relatives at gunpoint until the task is completed.

In other developments Friday:

— The two soldiers reported killed in roadside bombings were a paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division and another from the 4th Infantry Division. Both died Thursday.

— A gasoline tanker exploded outside the offices of the Mine Action Group, a British land mine clearing agency in the northern city of Irbil, causing minor damage but no casualties. Adnan al-Mufti, an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, blamed the explosion on supporters of Saddam Hussein.

— The Hungarian government said one of its citizens was shot and killed Monday by U.S. soldiers in Ramadi after he sped toward a military checkpoint and disregarded orders to stop. Peter Varga-Balazs's car then crashed into a Humvee, injuring several soldiers, it said. It was unclear why Varga-Balazs did not stop. He had been working as a civilian translator for a German waste management company.

— An explosion rumbled through Baghdad on Friday night, and flames shot up near the Canal Hotel, former headquarters of the U.N. operation in Iraq. Iraqi police said they had blown up a suspicious car, and that nobody was injured.

— NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said the alliance must complete its mission in Afghanistan before turning its attention to Iraq, despite calls from the United States for NATO to take on a security role in Iraq.