BAGHDAD, Iraq - Faced with a U.S. military crackdown using all the paraphernalia of high-technology warfare, Iraqi insurgents resorted Friday to the humblest of creatures and the simplest of transports to carry out what U.S. officers called "spectacular" strikes against heavily fortified targets in Baghdad.
The attackers used four donkey carts disguised as hay wagons to haul homemade multiple rocket launchers close to several of the best-defended sites in the city: the 20-story Palestine and Sheraton hotels, where one American suffered wounds to his head and torso. and the Oil Ministry on which hopes for oil wealth depend.
The donkeys were tethered to trees, with the rockets inserted inside home-made launchers, linked to car batteries and time fuses, and hidden under hay. But allied to these "contraptions," as one U.S. officer called them, were powerful battlefield rockets. Several feet long and as big around as a fire hose, they were said by U.S. officers to have been either Soviet-made 107-mm Katusha or Brazilian-made 122-mm Aspros of a kind stockpiled by Saddam's army before the U.S. invasion, with a range of up to 10 miles.
These are spectacular attacks," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, chief spokesman for the U.S. military command. He described those mounting attacks across Iraq as "an adaptive, ingenious, very clever enemy who knows that we don't have the best intelligence in the world.", and acknowledged that the use of donkey-deployed warheads packed a certain psychological punch. " but dismissed the attacks as "militarily insignificant", and said they knew that they could not prevail in a direct confrontation with the 155,000 coalition troops.
The novelty of the donkey carts yielded jokes. A passerby was heard asking a friend in Arabic, "I hear they caught the donkey. Is he talking?" "No," his companion replied. "He is a Wahhabi," a member of the hard-line Muslim sect that spawned Osama bin Laden.
Only luck appears to have averted a far more serious outcome. At least 50 of the rockets failed to fire: another donkey cart carrying rockets was spotted by a suspicious shopkeeper and disarmed before it could detonate near the Italian and Turkish embassies and the headquarters of a Kurdish political party in another part of central Baghdad. Yet another donkey cart was found near a law school and an adjacent U.S. military camp, with more rockets under a mound of hay. It, too, was disarmed.
U.S. commanders said they had no immediate suspects in the attacks. The donkey carts themselves yielded few clues, beyond the sort of hand-lettered legends that Middle Eastern carters commonly inscribe on their vehicles. "Allah, Mohammed, Ali," one said, invoking the Shiite Muslim trinity of God, the Prophet Mohammed, and the Shiites' first imam, Ali. Another inscription read: "My love, my heart is with you, my dear."
[information from The Salt Lake Tribune, Newsday and Star Telegram]
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