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March 18, 2004 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-18

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CAIRO, Egypt
Militant group calls for truce with Spain
The Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for last week's Madrid
train bombings has called a truce with Spain to give the new government time
to withdraw troops from Iraq, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said
The Al Hayat daily newspaper said it received a statement from the Brigade of
Abu Hafs al-Masri, which earlier said it orchestrated the bombings to punish
Spain for supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The blasts killed 201 people.
But the United States believes the group, which takes its name in memory of
al-Qaida's fallen No. 3, lacks credibility and its ties to al-Qaida are tenuous. In the
past, the group has made claims about various events to which it was not connect-
ed - such as blackouts last year in the United States, Canada and London.
Elsewhere, in Spain the country's new leader intensified his criticism of the
U.S.-led occupation of Iraq yesterday, saying it was "turning into a fiasco."
Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also refused to reconsider
his pledge to pull his 1,300 troops out of Iraq by June 30, in a sharp break with
the Bush administration.

Smoke rises from a five-story hotel in central Baghdad which was destroyed by a huge
car bomb.last night, killing at least 10 people, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers said.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Rn h A rnr ve TraI ; Israeli missiles kill four more in Gaza attacks

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hotel; 27 left dead

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A huge car
bomb tore apart a five-story hotel cater-
ing to foreigners in the heart of Baghdad
last night, killing 27 people and showing
the continued vulnerability of civilians
to terror attacks just days before the
anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.
Flames and heavy smoke burst sky-
ward from the Mount Lebanon Hotel,
torching nearby homes, offices and
shops. Rescuers pulled bodies from the
rubble and searched for other victims of
the attack, which wounded 41 people.
There was no official word on who
carried out the attack but a U.S. coun-
terterrorism official, speaking on the
condition of anonymity, said Jordanian
Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zar-
qawi is among those suspected of play-
ing a key role.
Dazed and wounded people stum-
bled from the wreckage, marked by a
jagged, 20-foot-wide crater. A father
cradled his young daughter, who was
limp in his arms. Coated in dust, some
rescuers dug through the debris with
bare hands as uniformed firefighters
fought the blaze and ambulance work-
ers stood by with orange stretchers.
"It was a huge boom followed by
complete darkness and then the red
glow of a fire," said 16-year-old Walid
Mohammed Abdel-Maguid, who lives
near the hotel. A U.S. soldier a mile
away said the blast - which took
place about 8 p.m. - felt as though it
were next door.
Army Col. Ralph Baker of the 1st
Armored Division estimated that the
bomb contained 1,000 pounds of
explosives. He said the bomb was a
mix of plastic explosives and artillery
shells. That was the same mixture of

explosives used in the Aug. 19,2003
suicide attack on the U.N. headquarters
in Baghdad, which killed 22 people.
Americans, Britons, Egyptians as
well as other foreigners were staying at
the Mount Lebanon Hotel, said Bagh-
dad resident Faleh Kalhan. But some
residents in the area said they believed
guests left the hotel a week ago after
its management received threats. If
true, many casualties were likely in
adjacent buildings. The British Broad-
casting Corp. reported that two Britons
were among the wounded.
The blast ignited at least eight cars,
one of which was hurled into a store.
Some vehicles were little more than
mangled piles of metal. The explosion
blew bricks, air conditioners, furniture,
wires and other debris hundreds of
yards from the hotel.
The Mount Lebanon was a so-called
soft target because it did not have con-
crete blast barriers and other security
measures that protect offices of the
U.S.-led coalition and buildings where
Westerners live and work.
The Bush administration offered
prayers for the victims but said such
attacks would not change U.S. policy.
"Democracy is taking root in Iraq
and there is no turning back," said
Scott McClellan, White House
spokesman. "This is a time of testing,
but the terrorists will not prevail."
The attack came three days before
the first anniversary of the start of the
U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hus-
sein. It took place behind Firdaus
Square, where Iraqis toppled a bronze
statue of Saddam on April 9 with the
help of U.S. Marines who had just
entered the center of the capital.

Israeli helicopters fired two missiles into a crowd of suspected gunmen in a
Palestinian refugee camp yesterday, killing four people in a stepped-up campaign
to root out militants in the Gaza Strip.
Two unarmed teenage boys and one militant were among the dead, Palestinian
officials said.
Islamic militants traded fire with Palestinian security forces in downtown Gaza
City during morning rush hour after a car carrying armed men refused to stop for
a police inspection, witnesses said. One civilian was killed and 17 people were
hurt, Palestinian officials said.
Israel launched the offensive into Gaza late Tuesday in response to a double sui-
cide bombing at the Israeli seaport of Ashdod that killed 10 Israelis. Security offi-
cials have also said they want to strike hard at militants ahead of a possible Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza. "The extremists should know that they cannot be immune
when they send terrorist groups to kill Israelis time and time again," said Israeli
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Pentagon to withhold
Halliburton funding
The Pentagon plans to withhold about
$300 million in payments to Halliburton
Co. because of possible overcharging for
meals served to troops in Iraq and
Kuwait, defense officials said yesterday.
Starting next month, the Defense
Department will begin withholding
15 percent of the money paid to Vice
President Dick Cheney's former com-
pany on a multibillion-dollar contract
to provide services such as food,
housing, laundry and mail to Ameri-
can forces in Iraq.
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy
Hall said the company disagreed with
the decision and hoped to persuade the
Pentagon to drop its plans.
If the Defense Department does
withhold the money, Halliburton will in
turn withhold 15 percent -of its pay-
ments to its subcontractors, Hall said.
The withholding won't affect Hal-
liburton's bottom line, Hall said.
Budget cuts may lead
to fewer park services
National park superintendents are
being told to cut back on services -
possibly even closing smaller, historic
sites a couple days a week - without
letting on they are making cuts.

Former employees of the National
Park Service, critical of how cuts are
being handled, released yesterday a
memo e-mailed last month to park
superintendents in the Northeast from
the Park Service's Boston office.
Among the memo's suggestions for
responding to tight budgets are to pos-
sibly shutter visitor centers on federal
holidays or during the winter, close
parks Sundays and Mondays, and elimi-
nate all guided ranger tours and life-
guards at some beaches.
Kosovo attacks mark
renewal of violence
Rioting swept parts of Kosovo yester-
day after ethnic Albanians blamed Serbs
for the drowning of two boys. The vio-
lence left eight dead and hundreds
injured in one of the bloodiest days since
the end of the Kosovo war in 1999.
Melees broke out in every major city in
the province as well as several enclaves
where Serbs have eked out a sheltered
existence since the war ended. Serb
homes, churches and cars were set on fire
as ethnic Albanians rampaged in revenge.
Most of the casualties occurred where
the violence erupted - the ethnically
divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica as the
two sides threw rocks and charged at
each other, then opened fire with guns.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports


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