Wolfowitz escapes as rockets strike Baghdad hotel

Missiles today struck a Baghdad hotel used as a barracks by US military and civilian personnel. The US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying there but escaped unharmed.

It was feared one American may have dead in the attack and several were injured. Wolfowitz said that danger persisted in Iraq "as long as there are criminals out there staging hit and run attacks".

US troops prevented reporters from reaching the scene, located in a heavily guarded area near coalition headquarters.

Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the war that ousted Saddam Hussein, arrived in Iraq on Friday for a three-day visit.

He said the US-led coalition was achieving success in stabilising Iraq despite actions of "criminals who are trying to destabilise this country." He described them as "a few who refuse to accept the reality" of the new Iraq.

"We are taking this fight to the enemy," he said. "We are getting the job done."

Wolfowitz paid tribute to "the Americans who are doing this job, civilian as well as military."

"They are heroes, and I want to express our profound sympathy to the victims of this attack," he said.

Wolfowitz left the northern city of Tikrit on Saturday about six hours before a US Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed and came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. The US military said at least one crewman was wounded.

Speaking to reporters, Wolfowitz described the Sunday attack as a "terrorist act" that "will not deter us from our mission."

"We're bringing in additional international support and most important of all, we have a steadily growing number of Iraqis fighting alongside us for a free Iraq. We're getting the job done despite the desperate act of a dying regime of criminals."

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