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Rockets Hit Baghdad Hotel With U.S. Staff

Rockets Hit Baghdad Hotel With U.S. Staff

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Six to eight rockets struck the Al Rasheed Hotel early Sunday, where U.S. military and civilian employees stay, the U.S. military said.

A spokesman for the military command said there were an "unknown number of casualties" and a quick reaction force had been dispatched to the scene. U.S. officials declined further comment.

The luxury hotel is located in an area tightly controlled by the U.S. military on the western side of the Tigris River near the headquarters of the U.s.-led coalition.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who began a three-day tour of Iraq on Friday, was in Baghdad, but his whereabouts were unknown.

The Al Rasheed, made famous by CNN's telephone calls under fire and rooftop broadcasts during the 1991 Gulf War, was taken over by the American military when Baghdad fell to U.S. forces in April.

The hotel, which was built and owned by the deposed Iraqi government, was Iraq's marquee guesthouse. Inaugurated in 1982 for a summit of nonaligned nations, its style remains a cross between 1970s American kitsch and Soviet institutionalism.

The attack came a day after guerrillas fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter after it came down in a field near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, wounding one soldier and causing the craft to explode in flames and spew a column of black smoke.

Also Saturday, U.S military officials reopened a major bridge over the Tigris River to ease transportation in the capital and ended the nighttime curfew in effect since April.

Coalition officials took the moves in preparation for the holy month of fasting, Ramadan, which begins here Monday. The month is marked by nighttime festivities.

Iraqi authorities said the steps were taken because of an improved security situation in the capital.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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