At least 20 people have been killed in bomb attacks on hotels housing journalists and foreign contractors in Baghdad. Three explosions went off near the Sheraton and Palestine hotels, causing severe damage. TV cameras caught the moment when a cement-mixing truck which appears to have been laden with explosives blew up. There are conflicting reports on whether the other explosions were caused by car bombs or rockets.
The hotels are near the square where a statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled at the end of the US invasion in 2003. A large number of foreign media organisations and news agencies are based in the Palestine Hotel, which is guarded by US troops. Gunfire echoed around the scene, across the river from the heavily fortified “Green Zone” compound where most US officials are based.
It is reported numerous people in the hotels have been injured, although exact casualty figures are not yet available. US tank fire on the Palestine hotel in 2003 killed two cameramen, and insurgents fired a mortar shell at the hotel a year ago. There had been a relative lull in violence in Iraq over the past 10 days, despite the expectation that insurgents would seek to disrupt the October 15 vote on a new constitution.