BAGHDAD -- Terrorists detonated three huge suicide bombs outside hotels frequented by journalists and foreign contractors yesterday, killing more than a dozen people in what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Westerners.
Initial reports said all of the dead were security forces and Iraqi passers-by, with only minor injuries to patrons in the Palestine and two other hotels facing Firdous Square. Dazed guests at the Palestine, many of them television journalists, photographed one another huddled in the hallways amid clouds of dust after the blasts.
U.S. forces rushed to the scene amid wailing police and ambulance sirens and quickly sealed off the area around the square -- the site where Iraqis tore down an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein in the final hours of the 2003 war.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities gave conflicting casualty tolls, with death counts ranging from 15 to 20 and twice that many reported as injured. The attacks emphatically ended a period of relative quiet since the constitutional referendum on Oct. 15.
The largest explosion tore away parts of the Palestine Hotel, which together with the Sheraton Hotel sits some 40 yards from the road. It is protected by large concrete barriers.
The strategy suggested in the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi, whatever the latest rumor about its authenticity, is being employed.
Iraqis will still suffer the majority of casualties, but the spin will change.
Islamists wanting to establish a new caliphate as their primary goal will always remain unchanged.