Iraq War News Roundup
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RAY SUAREZ: A suicide bomber killed four U.S. Soldiers in the first such attack of the war. It happened near the city of Najaf, where elements of the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division are deployed. The attack came when an Iraqi posing as a taxi driver pulled up to a civilian checkpoint manned by U.S. soldiers. Army Col. Will Grimsley.
COL. WILL GRIMSLEY: They stopped the vehicle at the roadblock, that has it clearly marked in Arabic that it is a roadblock. The driver beckoned them a little bit closer, and as the soldiers approached covered by fighting vehicles, the driver detonated a bomb killing himself and the four soldiers.
RAY SUAREZ: In Baghdad, the Iraqi vice president described the Iraqi attacker as a soldier, and a martyr.
TAHA YASSIN RAMADAN (Translated): He killed five Americans and destroyed a few tanks and personnel carriers. This officer his name is lieutenant Ali Jaafar Moussa Humud al Nuamani.
RAY SUAREZ: And the vice president promised more suicide attacks, saying they were justified by the overwhelming military advantage of the invading forces. U.S. And British soldiers continue to face the daunting task of distinguishing civilians from fighters. Despite today’s attack, Col. Grimsley says U.S. battlefield tactics are unchanged.
COL. WILL GRIMSLEY: We know how to do this and we’ve been doing it very well. What I think is important to remember is we continue to place force protection as our highest priority, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to back into our little holes and hide.
RAY SUAREZ: South of Najaf is the river junction Nasiriyah, where the Pentagon confirmed that four bodies found in a shallow grave are those of U.S. Soldiers. American troops today paused to remember their fallen comrades. There have been multiple ambushes in Nasiriyah, along the U.S. supply line to forces outside Baghdad. Separately, the bodies of the first British soldiers to die in the war arrived in Oxfordshire, England, and were greeted with a solemn ceremony. Several of the U.S. and British casualties have come from coordinated Iraqi attacks along supply lines and they can be expected to continue.
MOHAMMED SA’EED AL SHAHHAF (Translated): We are operating behind the enemy lines and we are destroying their convoys and capturing their soldiers.
RAY SUAREZ: The guerrilla tactics are causing coalition troops to make some adjustments, says British forces spokesman Al Lockwood.
AL LOCKWOOD: At the end of the day, what we have encountered is, yes, something slightly different: Paramilitary forces, which were not in the war game profile. But we are military people. We have to expect the unexpected, we have contingency plans.
RAY SUAREZ: Lockwood said forces encamped outside Baghdad are now taking a “four- to six-day pause” in their advance on the capital as they wait for supplies to arrive from the South. There are reports that food is being rationed to the troops and fuel use is restricted. Still, at central command in Qatar Major Gen. Victor Renuart said “pause” does not mean “delay.”
MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART: There is no pause on the battlefield. Because you see a particular formation not moving on a day, does not mean there is a pause on the battlefield. At the same time that we are conducting our air operations throughout the battlefield, we conduct artillery raids, we conduct deep attacks like we did last night, we conduct long- range patrols in order to fix and identify where enemy formations may be.
RAY SUAREZ: There was no pause in the Basra area, the strategic city to the South. British marines raided the homes of suspected militiamen from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, taking several prisoners. One woman fainted at the sight of the soldiers. Central command showed the results of a satellite-guided missile attack against Ba’ath Party headquarters in Basra; 200 Iraqis were believed to have been inside. Also in the Basra area British troops said she secured additional oil fields and secured munitions taken from fighters local loyal to Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, in Baghdad the Washington Post reports U.S. Special Forces are in Baghdad, looking to kill members of Saddam’s inner circle.
Today’s report says covert operators want “to fire the silver bullet that will kill Hussein and bring down his government.” In Baghdad today, residents today mourned the estimated 62 victims of a blast at what used to be a neighborhood market. The locals suspect a U.S. attack, but U.S. commanders said they could not confirm that. Residents of Baghdad also turned out to protest the U.S. and British air campaign, which did this damage to Iraq’s information ministry. Local officials said the U.S. motive was to keep civilian deaths from being publicized.
MOHAMMED SA’EED AL- SHAHHAF: They thought that by bombarding the ministry of information they can do something in order to prevent showing the world the facts, whether by pictures through the television networks or the flux of facts to you through the international and Arab media. I think this is a very, very disgrace to all of them.
RAY SUAREZ: Attack helicopters of the 101st Airborne Division have joined the Baghdad campaign firing on suspected Republican Guard positions. The Baghdad bombing has included hits by U.S. Tomahawk missiles, but U.S. commanders say some Tomahawks have gone astray landing in uninhabited parts of Saudi Arabia on the way to Iraq.
MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART: We did have a number of Tlam missiles that were reported down in their territory, and so we have agreed with them to conduct a review of those launch procedures and make sure that we don’t have a systems problem that we might not have been aware of.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the quietest parts of the U.S.-led campaign has been in western Iraq. But today the Pentagon released footage of U.S. Army Rangers there, showing what they described as attacks on Iraqi commandos.
RAY SUAREZ: On the northern front, U.S. warplanes struck again at Iraqi forces, and Kurdish fighters advanced toward a key city without firing a shot. We have a report from Julian Manyon of Independent Television News.
JULIAN MANYON: This morning, Kurdish troops led us through some of the 20 miles of territory which the Iraqi army has suddenly abandoned near the key oil city of Kirkuk. We passed small groups of Kurdish soldiers who are starting to move in here. Our destination was a complex which the Iraqis are said to have used for chemical warfare training. But as we filmed it, there was a violent explosion. (Explosion) The Iraqi gunners had fired an artillery shell directly at our convoy, and journalists from half a dozen television companies made a dash for safety. (Horn honks) We took cover, and then got out ourselves.
We’ve now taken refuge in an abandoned Iraqi army base about a mile from the village where we were shelled. That shell fire has now stopped. But from where we are now, we can look down towards the city of Kirkuk and see plumes of smoke rising there– a sign that the U.S. Air Force appears once again to be at work. (Gunfire) The Kurds have finally had the chance to express their hatred of Saddam, but they are not much closer to their dream of seizing Kirkuk. They’re under American pressure not to advance, because doing so would set off a crisis with neighboring Turkey. For now, the oil fields of Kirkuk remain in Saddam’s hands, tantalizingly out of reach.
RAY SUAREZ: In the wake of today’s action, 36 U.S. troops have been killed in the war, including 29 in combat; as many as 16 are still missing. Seven are listed as prisoners of war. British losses are now 23 killed. It’s believed hundreds of Iraqi fighters have died, but there is no confirmed figure. The Iraqis claim more than 4,000 civilians have been killed or wounded.