The Battle for Baghdad and Basra | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 06.04.2003
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The Battle for Baghdad and Basra

On Sunday, intense fighting continued in Baghdad and Basra as U.S. and British forces tightened their grip in the last major bastions of resistance in the country.


American soldiers search an Iraqi barrack in Baghdad.

Dozens of mortars were fired on Baghdad Sunday morning as the air and ground battle entered into its 18th day. U.S. Marines tightened their ring around Baghdad and, in the southwest, a large convoy from the Third Infantry Division crossed the Euphrates River.

Around midnight and in the early morning hours, heavy explosions could be heard near Baghdad's center. Eyewitnesses reported that shelling could be heard throughout the night -- especially in the southern and western outskirts of Baghdad.

Despite Iraqi reports to the contrary, Iraq's international airport appeared to be under American control. Several television channels broadcast images of American soldiers occupying the airport's terminal building.

It remained unclear Sunday whether the Iraqi government still has the capacity to direct its own troops. Iraqi state television broadcast a taped message from Saddam Hussein in which he called on his citizens to "humiliate the criminals."

"Suicide is the fate of all greedy invaders, and their grave will be here in Baghdad," he said.

British forces gain ground in Basra

Britische Panzer bei Basra

In Basra in southern Iraq, British forces continued their advance on the city. According to the British military, troops have completely surrounded the city and are now within three kilometers of the city center. There, several hundred paramilitaries are continuing in a fierce fight to hold back the British. Meanwhile, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Aswat reported on Saturday that leading Baath Party members in Basra, fearing the outrage of citizens, were seeking to negotiate their surrender.

In central Iraq in the city of Kerbala, intense, house-to-house fighting has been reported. The Pentagon said troops there were continuing their search for paramilitary fighters hiding on rooftops and other places. Attack helicopters fired on the city throughout the day.

Fighting also continued on the northern front near the cities Kirkuk and Mosul. Unconfirmed reports stated that the Iraqis were attempting to take back a bridge that had been conquered by Kurdish fighters on Saturday with support from elite U.S. troops. So far, the reports stated, the Iraqis have failed.

The television propaganda war also continued on Sunday. Throughout the day, Qatar-based al-Jazeera broadcast images of coalition forces and their aggressive treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war. The videos showed P.O.W.s tied up with bags over their heads. Immediately after, the broadcaster switched to clips of Iraqis celebrating wildly in front of a destroyed British tank, which had been covered with pro-Saddam slogans. But al-Jazeera also showed footage of U.S. soldiers patrolling the Baghdad airport without any hindrances.

In other developments:

* The U.S. military said on Sunday it had captured and killed a number of foreign fighters during clashes in Iraq. "Some of these fighters come from Sudan, Egypt, other places and we have killed a number of them and captured a number of them," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at Central Command in Qatar.

* The U.S. Central Command acknowledged Sunday that its warplanes might have attacked a Kurdish convoy in northern Iraq where at least 10 people were reported to have been killed, some of them Americans.

* Russia reported on Sunday that a diplomatic convoy had been attacked as it was carrying Russia's ambassador out of Iraq. Several were wounded in the incident.

Compiled by DW-WORLD staff with information from wire services.

Note: Information on troop movements, victims and damage estimates are based on information from parties involved in the war and cannot be independently verified.