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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 October, 2003, 10:51 GMT
Hotel attack divides Iraqis

By Martin Asser
BBC News Online correspondent in Baghdad

News of the rocket attack against the Rashid Hotel spread rapidly around the streets of Baghdad, although attitudes are divided between people who support such operations and those who do not.

US troops stand guard at the scene of a rocket attack in Baghdad
US troops have sealed the scene of the rocket attack
The rockets - probably fired from a multiple launcher on a pick-up truck or all-terrain vehicle - struck the west side of the famous hotel after 0600 on Sunday.

"We were asleep and a loud noise woke us up," said Hala from Mansour, about three kilometres (2 miles) away from the Rashid.

"It is a big target... I am not surprised they did it while (US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz was here," said a Mansour resident who did not give his name.

Apart from the media coverage, Mr Wolfowitz's presence in Baghdad has been advertised by the comings and goings of two large Chinook helicopters flying in formation over the city in recent days.

Another Mansour resident said it was wrong for the American authorities to lift the midnight-to-morning curfew on Baghdad for Ramadan, because it would encourage such attacks.

Support

Hala, 32, told the BBC she did not agree with attacks, alleging that "outside forces", not Iraqis, were conducting them.

But she says public opinion in Baghdad has turned against the Americans because of the way their troops behave.

I like and respect anyone who is my partner in the liberation of our country
Ali Abbas
"Just this morning I saw a US soldier beat an Iraqi man in the street. Some time ago in Kadhimiya I saw a man being shot three times just because he was standing and staring at the soldiers. We ran away so I don't know what happened to him.

"We want to live in peace," she says. "Why this harsh treatment? It is like Saddam."

A small majority of people standing outside the Iraqi engineers' union building are more sympathetic towards the American position - even towards Mr Wolfowitz, who remains one of the most controversial figures in the Bush administration for Arabs.

"I like and respect anyone who is my partner in the liberation of our country," says Ali Abbas, a resident of Diwaniya in southern Iraq.

"Didn't he say when he arrived that he had come to help us have more security and stability?" says Muhammad Anwar of Baghdad.

Defiance

However there are plenty of people who say resistance - whoever is behind it - is the correct course of action.

If we don't do this the Americans will never leave
Athal Ibrahim
"It's normal for anyone whose country is occupied to fight back," says Athal Ibrahim, standing outside the building.

"If we don't do this the Americans will never leave. If we don't attack them they'll feel like welcome guests, and they are not."

Another citizen outside the engineer's union, Abu Sattar, disagrees with him, although he is also against the occupation.

"We want things that benefit us... this will just make the Americans stay here longer," Abu Sattar says.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Yvonne Ndege
"The explosion left balconies damaged and windows shattered"



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