Heavy Iraqi Casualties in Battle Near Najaf
Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston of the Army’s V Corps told the Associated Press that hundreds of Iraqis were killed in the town 100 miles south of Baghdad.
The fighting began when Iraqis troops, either Republican Guard or paramilitary forces, opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades on U.S. troops advancing to the capital, defense officials said.
“They did damage a couple of pieces of our gear but we’ve had no reports of casualties on our side. But apparently there are some reports that we may have killed quite a few of them. Estimates differ. Some say 200-300. Some say 150,” a U.S. military official told Reuters News Agency.
Reports were still coming in from the battlefield, but there were no known American or British casualties as of Tuesday evening.
Earlier in the day, at least 30 armed Iraqis, who may have been on their way to fight in the city of Nassiriya, were killed in what appeared to be a bombing raid by U.S.-led forces, according to Reuters and AP reports.
The Iraqi government said 150 fighters have been killed in combat, and hundreds more injured, since the war began.
U.S. military officials said they could not easily assess the numbers of Iraqis killed in action and were reluctant to estimate.
“A lot of our airstrikes are in places we don’t not have military forces to actually do that kind of accounting work,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said during Tuesday’s briefing from Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar. “So it would be unfair of me to make any assessment of Iraqi casualties.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that coalition forces have more than 3,500 Iraqi prisoners. Renuart said that coalition forces were building prisoner of war camps, where the International Committee of the Red Cross will have access to the prisoners.