American compound in Baghdad hit by rocket attack

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The Independent Online

Guerrillas fired rockets at the headquarters of the American-led administration in central Baghdad last night and loudspeakers in the compound warned: "Attack. Take cover. This is not a test," as explosions echoed across the Iraqi capital.

Guerrillas fired rockets at the headquarters of the American-led administration in central Baghdad last night and loudspeakers in the compound warned: "Attack. Take cover. This is not a test," as explosions echoed across the Iraqi capital.

As sirens wailed, flares lit up the night sky and US helicopters clattered overhead, a spokesman for the 1st Armoured Division, which patrols Baghdad, said at least two rockets had been fired. One crashed through the roof of an empty apartment building near the coalition compound and another landed near a bus station. Although there were no injuries, two Iraqi police were wounded in another rocket-propelled grenade attack near a Baghdad petrol station.

Guerrilla attacks in Iraq have become increasingly brazen. On Saturday, a DHL cargo plane made an emergency landing in Baghdad with an engine on fire after being hit by a surface-to-air missile. A videotape delivered to a French journalist apparently showed the missile being fired.

The footage showed several men with their faces concealed by scarves, carrying grenade and missile launchers. One aimed a shoulder-fired missile at a plane. The attackers were shown escaping by car, and the tape had a plane descending with smoke pouring from one wing.

Earlier, the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, said tougher American tactics had halved the number of attacks on his forces in Iraq in the past two weeks. "But unfortunately we have found that attacks against Iraqis have increased," he added.

Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Iraq, predicted more violence, saying: "We have to anticipate that there will continue to be a level of terrorism in this country in the months ahead."

The US has about 130,000 troops in Iraq, but some Congressmen say more are needed to curb the insurgency. Gen Abizaid, however, said there were enough troops on the ground. "There is some indication of regional co-ordination between the [guerrilla] cells. We haven't really seen what I would call levels of national co-ordination, although that remains unknown," he said. Mr Bremer and the US- appointed Iraqi Governing Council unveiled a plan 10 days ago to restore Iraqi sovereignty in June, reversing Washington's earlier insistence that a new constitution and elections should precede any transfer of power.

"The principal reason for this agreement was an effort to reconcile different positions: an Iraqi desire to directly elect delegates to a constitutional convention and the coalition's desire to give Iraqis sovereignty at an early date," said Mr Bremer, adding there would be talks with the Governing Council about security after sovereignty was returned. "It is our anticipation that the [transitional] Iraqi government ... will want to have coalition forces here," he said.

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Monday, Jalal Talabani, president of the Iraqi council, said a provisional legislative body would be chosen by 31 May. This would elect a provisional sovereign government by the end of June, then "the Coalition Provisional Authority will be dissolved and the occupation ... will end".



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