Insurgents kill 15 in Iraqi hotel

A rocket struck the second floor of the hotel in Tikrit.

Marines of the 1st Division prepare Sunday for a patrol outside Falluja, Iraq.

The Associated Press
Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 10:10 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents fired a rocket into a hotel in Tikrit on Sunday evening, killing 15 Iraqis and wounding eight, as Prime Minister Ayad Allawi issued repeated warnings that negotiations with the rebels holding another central Iraqi town, Falluja, were swiftly running out of time and that an attack to retake the territory was imminent.
The rocket attack, about 7:50 p.m., struck a hotel where itinerant Shiite workers often stay, a new Iraqi satellite television channel, Al-Sharqiya, quoted a local police chief as saying. Tikrit, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, was Saddam Hussein's hometown and is dominated by Sunni Muslins.
The rocket, which struck the second story of the hotel, was one of two fired by insurgents; the second landed harmlessly, said Master Sgt. Robert Cowens, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division.
In a meeting with reporters Sunday, Allawi said unless his government was allowed to establish control of Falluja immediately, he would ask the American and Iraqi forces massed around the town to attack.
Allawi said as recently as Saturday night, he had met with tribal and religious leaders from Falluja and nearby Ramadi, where clashes broke out early Sunday between insurgents and U.S. Marines. But there was little sign of any progress, and the prime minister made it clear that chances for a peaceful settlement were rapidly fading.
"The time is closing down, really," Allawi said. "I am not putting a time schedule, but we are approaching the end."
An Army spokesman for the 2nd Brigade Combat team in Ramadi said that one Marine was killed and four were wounded when a roadside bomb went off during a patrol in Ramadi on Sunday. The spokesman had no information about any civilian casualties.
On Saturday, two Iraqis were killed and four were wounded when an armored personnel carrier shot at a suspected suicide car bomber. But it turned out that it was a taxi with six apparently innocent people inside. The incident occurred at a vehicle control point.
A preliminary investigation found no explosives in the car, the spokesman said, saying the episode was "a very unfortunate, very tragic event and we hate it when these kinds of things happen."
"We have had six suicide bombs in the last week against our units," said the spokesman. "At least one of them was a taxi, so you could understand the soldier's actions. He fired first at the engine block, but it continued to accelerate so the second time he shot into the cab, killing the driver."
In a meeting with reporters inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Allawi listed what he said were recent successes in killing and capturing insurgents and their leaders in Iraq. He emphasized the capture of what he said were 167 fighters who had come from outside Iraq, but it was unclear whether they had come to the country recently to fight or had immigrated years ago.
But he was unambiguous about his motivations in the gathering storm around Falluja.
"The terrorists and insurgents continue to use Falluja and the people of Falluja as a shield," Allawi said, giving a list of recent insurgent attacks in his country.
"That's why I cannot stand back and allow such attacks to continue," he said.
Allawi said that he would keep pressing for a peaceful resolution but that "our patience is running thin." U.S. Marines massing around the town said they were prepared for action at any time.
"If Prime Minister Allawi makes the decision that force is necessary to settle the situation in Falluja, the Marines and the Iraqi forces are ready," said Maj. Mark E. Winn, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, now stationed near Falluja.
Allawi declined to say much about something that has received intense discussion in the U.S. presidential campaign in the past week - the disappearance of hundreds of tons of powerful conventional explosives from the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility south of Baghdad around the time of the invasion of the country last year.
"I don't like to really have a premature comment," Allawi said. "I have ordered the relevant authorities start an investigation into this," he said. "Once we have the results, we will make a public statement."

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