U.S. Bombs Baghdad, Attacks Republican Guard | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.03.2003
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U.S. Bombs Baghdad, Attacks Republican Guard

U.S.-led forces on Monday continued with air strikes against Baghdad and engaged elite Republican Guard units just south of the Iraqi capital.


A U.S. soldier in front of a burning oil well in southern Iraq.

Following a heavy night of bombing, the assault continued in Baghdad throughout the day. Explosions rocked the palace used by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's son Qusay, who commands the Republican Guard of the Iraqi armed forces.

Other air strikes hit the Iraqi information ministry and defensive positions dug in on the outskirts of the city. Iraq has said nearly 600 Iraqi civilians have been killed and more than 4,500 wounded since the war began on March 20.

The elite Republican Guard units have borne much of the brunt of the coalition’s bombing throughout the twelve days of the war. But on Monday, U.S. forces fought the crack Iraqi troops in close quarters in the town of Hindiyah, located just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. 3rd Infantry entered the town in the early morning. Amid pitched street fighting, the U.S. troops were able to capture several dozen Iraqis, including members of the Republican Guard.

Marines reinforce Nasiriya

Coalition troops on Monday also attempted to consolidate the rapid gains made in southern Iraq. According to British television network BBC, 5,000 U.S. Marines where being sent to reinforce the 7,000 troops fighting near the town of Nasiriya in central Iraq.

Heavy fighting in the area has slowed critical supply lines fueling the advance of coalition forces to Baghdad. A Reuters correspondent said the Marines were hunting Ali Hassan al-Majeed, dubbed “Chemical Ali” for overseeing the use of poison gas against Kurdish villagers in 1988.

Despite admitting there had been stiff Iraqi resistance, U.S. military planners on Sunday insisted the ground offensive remained on track. "We have no plans for pauses, cease-fires or anything else," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

But General Richard Myers, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said coalition forces would not be rushed into action in the hope of speeding victory. "We're not going to do anything before we're ready," Myers said. "We're certainly not going to do anything to put our young men and women in danger precipitously. We're also not going to put Iraqi civilians in danger as well."

Over the weekend, British forces strengthened their attack on troops still loyal to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the southern city of Basra, Iraqi's second-most populous city. But a British military leader said the troops were not planning to occupy the city immediately.

Brigadier General Graham Binns, the commander of the Desert Rats division deployed there, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper: "I'm not going to allow myself to get drawn into Basra and let it turn into a Stalingrad or Grosny."

Iraq defends suicide attacks

In a perhaps ominous sign of a coming guerrilla war, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz defended the use of unconventional attacks against U.S. and British forces.

Tarik Aziz Ministerpräsident Irak

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz

"When you fight an invader by whatever means available to you, you are not a terrorist; you are a hero," he said.

On Sunday, an Iraqi suicide bomber who killed four Americans troops on Saturday was awarded a posthumous medal of honor and proclaimed a martyr. Iraqi officials have said 4,000 volunteers from throughout the Arab world have arrived in Baghdad and are prepared to carry out further attacks.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday stepped up pressure on Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Iran for allegedly supporting Iraqi opposition and terrorist organizations. In a speech in Washington, Powell also reiterated a warning given by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday, saying both countries would be held accountable for their actions if they got involved in the conflict.

In further developments:

-- Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf announced on Monday that Iraq's troops had killed 43 British and American soldiers in the past days' fighting. According to the U.S. military, 46 American soldiers have been killed since the war began, while 17 are missing. Britain says 25 of its troops have been killed, the majority of whom died under friendly fire.

-- British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said on Monday that no senior Iraqi commanders or senior politicians had defected, while the coalition forces were holding 8,000 prisoners of war. Hoon also ruled out sending more British troops to the Persian Gulf in addition to the 45,000 that are already there.

-- Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday Turkey had no plans to act in northern Iraq against Kurdish groups, but had to defend itself against any "terrorist" infiltration.

-- U.S. forces attacked and destroyed a "terrorist facility" in northern Iraq. The base is believed to have been used by the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group to produce chemical weapons. Ansar al-Islam is said to have ties to al Qaeda.

-- A truck ploughed into soldiers at a U.S. base in Kuwait injuring 10 to 15 soldiers. The soldiers fired at the truck driver who was taken to a hospital for treatment.

-- The first shipment of United Nations relief supplied under the oil for food program was trucked into northern Iraq on Sunday.

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.