Friday, January 09, 2004

No one was hurt in Friday's dawn attack on the Burj al-Hayat hotel in central Baghdad, which is used mainly by foreign businessmen and U.S. army contractors. Three rockets hit rooms around the fourth floor, smashing windows, security guards said.

The guards said they exchanged fire with men in a car as the hotel came under attack...

On Thursday, scores of soldiers had a narrow escape when the C-5 Galaxy military transport plane, one of the world's largest aircraft, returned safely to Baghdad airport after what was possibly a missile hit.

Officials said the plane, carrying 63 passengers and crew, was hit by ground fire soon after take-off from Baghdad, causing an explosion in one of its four engines.

A military official in Washington told Reuters a missile might have struck the transporter. The U.S. military said later that guerrillas appeared to have hit the plane but that it was not clear what weapon they used...

In the town of Falluja west of Baghdad, a bastion of anti-U.S. guerrilla activity, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed on Thursday, but it was not clear whether it was shot down.

Nine soldiers were on board and all were killed, the military said.

One witness said he saw the helicopter in flames before it came down and news reports said it appeared to have been hit by a rocket. The U.S. military said it was investigating the cause...

In Tikrit, the hometown of the ousted dictator, some 300 soldiers from the army's 4th Infantry Division backed by Bradley armoured vehicles and military aircraft raided houses to search for suspects and for weapons and other incriminating material.

"It was a good night," Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Russell told reporters after 13 people were captured in the raids, which lasted for most of the hours of curfew in town between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. "Tikrit will be a safer place tomorrow as a result."

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