Wolfowitz Unhurt, Says Hotel Terrorist Attack Won't Deter Mission
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 26, 2003 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who was on the 12th floor of the Al Rasheed Hotel in downtown Baghdad when it was hit today by rocket-propelled grenades in a terrorist attack, insisted that "this terrorist act will not deter us from completing our mission - which is to help the Iraqi people free themselves from the type of criminals who did this and to protect the American people from this kind of terrorism."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz briefs media after terrorist attack Oct. 26 on the Al Rasheed hotel in Baghdad, where he was staying during his visit to Iraq. "This terrorist act will not deter us from completing our mission -which is to help the Iraqi people free themselves from the type of criminals who did this and to protect the American people from this kind of terrorism," Wolfowitz said. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wolfowitz, in Iraq for a four-day visit to assess progress in the country's rebuilding, was unhurt in the attack. A U.S. military spokesman said six to eight rockets struck the west side of the hotel between the second and 10th floors at about 6:10 a.m. local time.
One U.S. soldier was killed in the attack and 15 people were wounded -- seven U.S. civilians, four U.S. military personnel and four coalition partner civilians. Today was expected to be declared the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
"I want to express our profound sympathy for the victims of this attack," he said. "The Americans who were here doing this job - civilians as well as military -- are heroes."
Wolfowitz called the attacks "desperate acts of a dying regime of criminals" who he said "refuse to accept the reality of a free Iraq." He told reporters that "we will be unrelenting in our pursuit of them."
"As the president has said, we are taking this fight to the enemy," Wolfowitz continued. "We are bringing in additional international support. And most important of all, we have steadily growing numbers of Iraqis fighting alongside us for a free Iraq. We are getting the job done despite the desperate acts of a dying regime of criminals."
Wolfowitz said that even bigger than the news of the attack is "what we have seen in the last two days going around this country, even in Saddam Hussein's own hometown of Tikrit."
"There are more and more Iraqis being trained and equipped and going out on patrols fighting these criminals," he said. "I am struck that every commander I talk to says that most of the problem comes from former regime loyalists ... and the big news is to me that the Iraqis are fighting and killing those people. They are not staying and fighting, they are running."
Wolfowitz said there are no guarantees that similar attacks won't happen again.
"As long as there are criminals out there staging hit and run attacks, there is going to be risk in this country," he said. "People who are here helping the Iraqi people confront that risk, and the Iraqis who are standing up for their country taking on that risk, are heroes."
The attack was the second within a month at the Al Rasheed Hotel. The last attack, in late September, wasn't anything like this one," said Army Master Sgt. John Hodges, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Coalition Press Information Center. "I could tell that this was a much more intense attack."
Hodges was in the shower of his seventh-floor room when he heard several loud booms that he said "sounded like mortars" and brought back memories of his days in the jungles of Vietnam.
The windows of his room had shattered and the area was thick with smoke and the smell of gunpowder, he said.
Hodges said he quickly dressed and hurried toward the stairway, where he noticed blood on the floor at the fifth or sixth floor.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ken Hudson from the 319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based at Fort Jackson, S.C., was on the 10th floor of the hotel, which was hit during the attack.
As he left his room to evacuate to the hotel lobby, Hudson said the hallway was full of smoke, doors to some of the rooms had been blown off their frames and broken glass was scattered in the hallway. "It was very smoky and hard to see," he said. "Water was running out of one of the rooms."