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A Huge Blast, and Then Brown Smoke Billowed Into the Hall

October 25, 2005|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — The first blast, a thunderous explosion, came at 5:21 p.m., followed by a volley of automatic weapons fire. Someone inside the Palestine Hotel shouted that the nearby Ishtar Hotel had been hit.

Moments later came a second explosion -- loud but more distant. More gunfire. Associated Press reporters left their work room for the relative safety of the hall, protected by internal walls.

Suddenly, at 5:24 p.m., a huge blast rocked the building with a force so intense that people inside could feel the shock wave. The hallway filled with billowing brown smoke.

"Everybody put on helmets and body armor!" a security advisor shouted.

No one hesitated.

Bewildered staffers milled about. Some headed for the fire exit. Some glanced about nervously, panting for breath in the dust. Conversations were at a shout.

"Stay on the floor, stay on the floor!" yelled a security advisor. "You're safer here."

A quick head count determined that no one had been killed.

Three TV cameramen stumbled down the hall, holding their heads as blood spilled from their wounds. A security advisor dressed their injuries. Once the shooting stopped, he escorted them downstairs to a car waiting to take them to a hospital.

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