Image: Iraq Hotel Bomb
NBC News correspondent Patricia Sabga passes by Iraqi police as she is evacuated from the al-Aike Hotel after the bomb detonated Thursday.

Blinded by debris, NBC employees called out for one another in the aftermath of a deadly bomb attack at the network’s Baghdad headquarters Thursday. “You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” NBC News correspondent Jim Avila said. The blast killed one of the building’s employees and injured an NBC sound technician.

“It was a huge explosion,” Avila said. “Everyone came out into the internal courtyard. The air was full of rubble, not smoke, but bits of concrete and building material.”

His ears rang from the explosion as he called out for his co-workers.

“It was generally very frightening for everyone, walking around, calling names and not seeing anyone right away,” he said.

The bomb had been placed next to the generator at the al-Aike Hotel, where 11 NBC News employees have worked and slept for the past two months. The improvised explosive device was set off with a timer about 3 feet from the hotel’s outer wall just before 7 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Wednesday), according to Iraqi police.

“Due to the time difference with America, we work until around midnight, so at 10 ‘til 7 most everyone was still sleeping,” Avila said.

A Canadian sound man, David Moodie, was just waking up in his room directly above the generator when the blast blew out his window and knocked a chest of drawers on top of him. He suffered superficial wounds to his face and a deeper cut to his left forearm that required stitches but later appeared on MSNBC TV to describe the incident. (MSNBC is a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft.)

After a head count was conducted in the courtyard, the crew went into the street in front of the hotel.

At that point, “an Iraqi security guard said he couldn’t find the [hotel’s] desk clerk, so our private security force went in and found him,” Avila said.

The clerk, a Somali national, was “within feet of the blast in a room adjacent to where the bomb went off,” Avila said, and died instantaneously from a wound to the head.

“It’s sad,” Avila said. “Here’s a guy trying to make a living in a place where’s it’s very difficult to make a living. So he had a night-desk job. Then a bomb kills him. The bombers didn’t even kill an American.”


U.S. forces arrived within 10 minutes and cordoned off the area. The network began broadcasting live less than an hour later.

Fifteen to 20 pounds of explosives were used in the attack, according to the military. Avila said there was “damage to an area about 100 feet in diameter,” including a crater 3 to 4 feet deep and 4 feet wide that was blasted into the concrete floor.

“There was considerable damage to walls near to where the blast occurred, damage to windows and doors, and some banisters on the staircase were knocked over,” he said.

The attackers appeared to have strategically placed the bomb next to the hotel’s generator and a couple of barrels of diesel with the intention of igniting the fuel.

“There’s a misconception,” Avila said. “Diesel fuel does not explode that easily, but there was that intention.”


It was not immediately clear whether NBC News was targeted because it is a U.S. news agency.

“There were no phone calls, no warning. No one took responsibility for the attack, so we have no way of knowing,” Avila said. “But, we are the only ones in the hotel.”

Before Thursday’s attack, local residents had expressed no opposition to the media crew. But after the bombing, which also damaged homes and a restaurant in the area, “they said they were concerned that a Western news agency was operating in their neighborhood,” Avila said.

NBC News had planned to move its headquarters before the bombing and will now do so immediately.

“We’re trying to put together today’s news working out of the part of the hotel that wasn’t damaged, then get out of here,” Avila said.

The network issued a statement saying it remained dedicated to covering the developments in Iraq.

“We are all well-trained adults,” Avila said. “We’ve been in war zones. We make this decision on a personal basis.”

(’s Jennifer Carlile contributed to this report.)

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