Air Strikes Hit Baghdad, Targets in Northern Iraq

According to reports from Baghdad, round-the-clock air raids continued to pound the outskirts of the city as part of an ongoing campaign to break up elite Iraqi Republican Guard units preparing to battle coalition forces for control the capital.

Iraqi forces apparently set an oil-filled trench ablaze in an attempt to impede U.S. and British aircraft from carrying out the air strikes, causing a huge fire to rage close to the city’s center according to a Reuters report.

Some of the latest targets in Baghdad hit by coalition aircraft included military facilities at the Abu Garayb Presidential Palace, the telephone exchange, the Karada military intelligence complex and the barracks of a paramilitary training center, the U.S. Central Command said.

U.S. military officials warned Sunday they are in no rush to begin a ground assault on Iraq’s capital city and denied reports that troops are in an “operational pause” as coalition forces attempt to secure supply lines from Iraqi resistance.

During his press briefing, U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks said that coalition forces had attacked and destroyed a “massive terrorist facility” over the last 48 hours in northern Iraq and that a “very capable” ground force was in place in the northern part of the country.

“These forces, along with large numbers of special operations troops, have prevented the rekindling of historic feuding which we’ve seen in years past between the Turks and the Kurds, and these forces do in fact represent a serious northern threat to regime forces,” Franks said of the northern front.

U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters were able to take control of more territory left by Iraqi forces retreating toward the major oil center of Kirkuk, as Saddam’s forces apparently attempted to tighten their control around key parts of northern Iraq.

Kurdish militia advanced nearly 10 miles and were largely unchallenged but hampered by mine fields left by Iraqi troops, Ares Abdullah, a Kurdish commander, told the Associated Press.

The northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul have undergone intense air strikes from coalition forces in recent days. Kirkuk is the second largest oil production facility in Iraq and is considered by the Kurds to be a crucial part of their ethnic homeland.

The U.S. military also confirmed Sunday that 10 to 15 troops were injured when a truck drove into a group of soldiers outside of a U.S. military base in Kuwait. The identity of the attacker was not immediately known.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials claimed Sunday that its military had successfully destroyed two U.S. or British tanks and nine armored personnel carriers within the last 24 hours.

Iraqi forces shot down nine unmanned intelligence gathering drone aircraft and carried out a strike against the Ali al-Salem air base near Kuwait City, the military said in a statement.

Iraq also said it had shot down two U.S. helicopters, killing at least two crewmembers.

The Pentagon said it had no reports of missing aircraft and there were no U.S. reports of any attack at the Ali al-Salem air base.