BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military Thursday lowered the death toll in the homicide bombing at a hotel in central Baghdad to seven after initially putting it at 27.
Brig Gen. Mark Kimmitt said 35 people were wounded in Wednesday's car bombing at the Mount Lebanon Hotel (search) in the heart of Baghdad. One Briton was killed and another was wounded, the British government said.
U.S. Army Col. Jill Morgenthaler confirmed the attack was a homicde bombing but said the destroyed hotel may not have been the intended target because the vehicle loaded with explosives was in the middle of the street and not parked in front of the hotel.
"It may have been a different target, it may have been a different day the bomber intended to use this car bomb," Kimmitt told a television interviewer. "It does not appear as if the car was able to pull in front of the hotel and detonate, which is why it is not as declarative as we may have thought at first."
Morgenthaler said it was not clear what the target may have been. The hotel is in the middle of a busy district that is both commercial and residential.
The explosion, which left a jagged 20-foot crater, also set ablaze nearby homes, offices, cars and shops, sending dazed and wounded people stumbling from the wreckage.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Governing Council (search), Hamid al-Kafaai, blamed Al Qaeda for the blast but offered no evidence.
"It is aimed at terrorizing the civilians, destabilizing the country and hampering the democratic march in the country," he said.
A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Al Qaeda-linked Jordanian Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) is among those suspected of playing a key role.
The Mount Lebanon was a so-called "soft target" because it did not have concrete blast barriers and other security measures that protect offices of the U.S.-led coalition and buildings where Westerners live and work.
The U.S.-funded Arabic Al-Hurra (search) television station captured the blast on video. As a massive fireball explodes into the night sky about a half- mile away and a second later a thunderous boom is heard, an Iraqi woman in a Muslim shawl who was about to be interviewed ducks for cover.
Rescuers pulled two more bodies from the rubble before dawn Thursday and smoke poured from the site 12 hours after the 8:09 p.m. explosion. The nationalities of all the dead were not immediately known, though most were expected to be Iraqi.
A Moroccan, three Jordanians, two Britons, two Lebanese and an Egyptian were registered at the Lebanese-owned hotel, duty manager Bashir Abdel-Hadi said.
He said among those killed were the hotel's three security guards, who were standing in front at the time.
Much of the damage was done to surrounding buildings. Across the street, the one-story house of a Christian family of seven was virtually destroyed. Associated Press reporters saw four bodies in the wreckage.
"I was sleeping in the room and then I heard a huge explosion, I ran out and then I was hit against the wall," said Jihad Abu Muslah, from a bed in Al Kindi Hospital, bandages on his face.
A U.S. soldier less than a half-mile away said the blast felt as though it were next door.
U.S. Army Col. Ralph Baker of the 1st Armored Division (search) estimated the bomb contained 1,000 pounds of explosives and was a mixture of plastic explosives and artillery shells — the same components used in the Aug. 19 suicide attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22.