| An Iraqi boy wounded during an air strike sits in a hospital near Baghdad on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Baghdad, April 2 (Reuters): US missiles struck a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad and other civilian buildings today, killing several people and wounding at least 25, hospital sources and witnesses said.
The attacks, which occurred at 0630 GMT, caught motorists who had ventured out during a lull in the bombing. This correspondent saw at least five burned-out and twisted cars halted in the middle of the road. Witnesses said the drivers burned to death inside.
US planes pounded central Baghdad, striking at least three times a compound where President Saddam Hussein’s son Qusay has his headquarters and sending thick smoke into the sky. Qusay commands the Republican Guard.
Residents and doctors said US planes raided the Mansour area, firing at least three missiles. The hospital, the nearby Baghdad trade centre complex and offices housing the Pharmacist and Teachers’ Unions were hit, they said.
“There were air raids. Some 25 people who work and live in the area were wounded. Three of our Red Crescent staff were also wounded. We brought all the wounded in our ambulances to two hospitals,” Red Crescent official Abdel-Hameed Salim said at Baghdad's al-Iskan hospital.
The facade of the two-floor “Red Crescent Maternity Hospital”, its drug store and the waiting room were damaged. The false ceiling in the room collapsed and the floor was littered with glass shards, debris and blood of the wounded.
Some women who were at the hospital to have their babies were spared and moved out to other hospitals, doctors said.
“The ceiling fell on us. Glass and debris cut through many patients and staff members. Most of the patients here were pregnant women but they were taken to other hospitals,” Dr Mohammad Ibrahim told reporters.
Doctors said although the hospital was for maternity, it also served as a vaccination and medical centre for the Red Crescent Society and provided treatment and care for patients.
He said a total of 10 patients and staff were injured at the hospital. Salim said among the Red Crescent casualties was doctor Mohammad Fadel, who was preparing for a normally hectic day in war times. Also injured was a patient who had come to see a doctor. He was hit and his leg had to be amputated.
“We had a lot of medical supplies for rescue operations and we don’t know if they were destroyed or not,” Salim added.
US military spokesman Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told reporters in Qatar: “I am not aware of the Red Crescent report, so I cannot address it.” A US military statement said US planes had targeted the new Presidential palace in the Al Khark section of Baghdad and the Baghdad presidential bunker and residence in the Republican Palace District in central Baghdad.
Fires and smoke smouldered hours later from Baghdad’s luxurious trade centre, which was devastated in the attack. It lies next to a government security building, which was apparently missed in the bombings.
The highway leading to the hospital and the trade fair was pockmarked with craters caused by the attack. Some of the wounded received first aid at the emergency ward of Iskan hospital while some were immediately taken to theatre for surgery.
At two hospitals in Baghdad, Reuters journalists saw at least 10 civilians who were wounded in air raids.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said one of its doctors in Baghdad had visited the scene. He said the maternity hospital had not taken a direct hit but was damaged by blast from a missile that hit a building across the street.
The doctor said he was told three passersby were killed and 27 people wounded but that only a medical team and some nurses had been in the hospital which had been evacuated some days earlier.
A brief lull in the bombing was broken in the late afternoon with planes again attacking targets to the south of the capital.
“It is a heavy bombardment. I can hear planes, anti-aircraft fire and the thud of explosions,” said Reuters correspondent Nadim Ladki.
Republican Guards are believed to have dug in south of the city to defend it from advancing US troops. Anti-aircraft fire was also heard on the outskirts.
The heavy bombing comes as US ground forces pressed on toward Baghdad from the west and the east. The vanguard of US-led land troops have approached to within 30 km of Baghdad from the south.