Some Iraqi Republican Guard divisions were reported to be moving south out of Baghdad and toward the advancing coalition forces, according to wire reports.
“Our guys are able to see the skyline [of Baghdad.] That’s how close we’ve gotten,” a military official told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some lead units were also reported to have donned their full chemical protection suits as they close in on the Iraqi capital.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Marines said they seized a bridge over the Tigris west of Kut, 105 miles from the Iraqi capital. Further west, the Army bypassed Karbala and headed for the Euphrates river just 50 miles from Baghdad.
“This is so far the biggest fight of the war,” said a U.S. spokesman at Central Command in Qatar. “The battles in Karbala and Kut are the most significant battles to date.”
U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said the troops approaching Baghdad had crossed a “red line” which he said could trigger a chemical attack by embattled Iraqi forces.
“We have forces that have already crossed those red lines,” Brooks told a news conference at Central Command headquarters in Qatar on Wednesday.
“If it’s (chemical weapons) used, we’ll be prepared for it being used,” Brooks said. “It causes us to maintain protective postures of our forces as they approach this area, but it doesn’t make us stop.”
Meanwhile, Iraq’s information minister denied on Wednesday that U.S. troops had crossed the Tigris river in their advance on Baghdad.
“I have detailed information about the situation…which completely proves that what they allege are illusions,” Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a news conference.