BAGHDAD – The U.S. commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, escaped unharmed from a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq on Thursday, the U.S. army said.
“At 1330 in Falluja, General Abizaid and General (Charles) Swannack were visiting a local Iraqi civil defense corps compound when three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at their convoy from rooftops nearby,” Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt told a news conference.
“No coalition soldiers or civilians were injured.”
Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said American forces returned fire and unsuccessfully pursued the assailants.
“Whether we can directly link this attack to any foreknowledge that General Abizaid and General Swannack were going to be there is a leap that we are not going to make at this time,” Kimmitt said.
Kimmitt has previously denied suggestions of leaks from the U.S. military on the movements of high profile visitors.
Falluja, 32 miles west of Baghdad, is a hotbed of anti-American activity in Iraq and is part of the area known as the Sunni triangle, Saddam Hussein’s former power base.
Abizaid is the third high-profile American official to escape an attack in Iraq.
The others are U.S. administrator Paul Bremer, whose convoy was attacked in December, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose Baghdad hotel was hit by rockets.
Kimmitt said eight mortars were fired at a U.S. base in Baghdad on Thursday, slightly wounding three soldiers.
The main BBC nightly news bulletin did not mention the incident reported above. However, the BBC knows about the attack because it was reported on BBC Radio 4 news, broadcast at the same time as the main nightly TV news.
This is a prime example of “news management”.
BBC Radio 4 has a tiny audience compared with BBC TV’s main nightly news. But just to ensure that nobody can accuse the corporation of censoring the news, it is carried on Radio 4.
It is the perfect way to pre-empt any accusations of censorship. But that, in effect, is exactly what it is doing.
Welcome to the world of “news management” BBC style.