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U.S. Assault on Central Baghdad Intensifies

U.S. tanks and troops flood into central Baghdad; British forces control "majority" of Basra, body of "Chemical Ali" reportedly found in Basra by British soldiers.

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U.S. troops move into Baghdad from all fronts as heavy armor pounds the city center

Coalition forces continue to tighten the stranglehold on Iraq's two main cities as U.S. troops, supported by heavy artillery and air support, close in on the center of Baghdad. British forces are now claiming they have unhindered passage through the majority of Basra after a massive assault by ground troops.

It was described as "a show of force" and not the anticipated "Battle for Baghdad." U.S. tanks rolled into the southwestern district of Baghdad on Saturday to engage Republican Guard units in the first coalition push into the Iraqi capital. When the tanks rolled in again on Sunday, U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, maintained that these probing attacks were not the main offensive for the city.

However, after Baghdad was once again rocked by air strikes and heavy shelling in dawn raids on Monday, Major Michael Birmingham, chief public affairs officer for the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, told the Reuters news service that the march on Baghdad was more or less under way. "We're attacking right down in the center of the city right now," Birmingham said. "The other day was just an incursion. This is for real."

Troops advance on city from all fronts

More than 100 tanks and armored vehicles poured into the city at first light as A-10 "tankbuster" fighter planess pounded Iraqi forces around the city center and outskirts. The column of more than 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers forced its way through heavy resistance into central Baghdad where a fierce battle erupted as Republican Guard divisions attempted to repel the American tanks.

Ungebrochener Widerstand

U.S. troops advance through the suburbs of Baghdad.

Elsewhere in the city, U.S. troops were reported to be in control of Saddam Hussein's main presidential palace while on the western outskirts, American forces were involved in a firefight on the banks of the Tigris River. Marines were also reported to be entering the city from the southeast. Outside the city, U.S. military sources said American troops now controlled most of the major routes into Baghdad.

Iraq says U.S. armor "slaughtered"

Defiant as ever, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a press conference in central Baghdad that American armored columns had been "slaughtered" and forced out of the city -- as correspondents reported continued fighting not far from the conference location.

A Reuters correspondent in Baghdad said the Iraqi Information Ministry and the Foreign Ministry were still firmly in Iraqi government hands -- and that heavily armed units of the Iraqi Republican Guard had taken up positions in the area. However, U.S. sources said American servicemembers had taken control of the city center and the heart of the Iraqi Government structure.

U.S. plane lands at Baghdad airport

The first American planes landed on Sunday at Baghdad's international airport under the cover of darkness. Two C-130s and one C-117, all military cargo planes, landed at the airport, demonstrating that the U.S. military has taken full control of it. U.S. troops first seized the airport on Friday.

Britische Soldaten bei Basra

British soldiers fight for the city of Basra.

In Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, British military officials claimed their forces can move freely through much of the city after a major assault by thousands of troops. By Sunday evening, most of the city, with the exception of the old town, was understood to be in British hands -- although sporadic fighting was ongoing. Reports breaking on Monday suggest that British paratroops have now been dropped into the city's historical center and are fighting to eliminate the last pockets of resistance.

British storm central Basra

Acting on intelligence that the "time was right," the British Army's 7th Armored Brigade, the famed Desert Rats, stormed the center of the city with several thousand troops and hundreds of tanks on Sunday. Three units, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Royal Fusiliers and the Black Watch, advanced into the city and reported only low-level resistance. Meanwhile, in the southwestern part of the city, Royal Marine commandos spearheaded a second wave of attacks.

"Chemical Ali" reported dead

U.K. forces had spent about two weeks before the assault attacking targets believed to be linked to the Baath Party regime. On Saturday they attacked a building in which the Iraqi commander General Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali", was thought to be. British officials informed the Associated Press on Monday that they believe a body found at the site to be that of the feared cousin of Saddam Hussein, the man held responsible by many for chemical attacks on the Kurds in 1988.

Friendly fire

Elsewhere on the battlefield, military officials were investigating two separate incidents on Sunday where non-Iraqi targets were erroneously attacked. The first involved the "friendly fire" bombing of a convoy of vehicles that was carrying Kurdish and American soldiers as well as members of the media. According to Kurdish estimates, 18 people were killed in the strike and a further 40 were injured.

In a second incident, between four and five people were injured as the convoy in which Russia's ambassador to Iraq, Alexander Titorenko, began to flee the country came under attack. The U.S. has denied involvement in the shootings, which came from handheld weapons, and Moscow has sent formal letters of complaint to American and Iraqi officials demanding they take better care of protecting Russian civilians.

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.