A U.S. military spokesman at U.S. Central Comand headquarters in Qatar told Reuters, ”Nasiriya has fallen.”
A U.S. military officer near Nasiriya confirmed that forces had secured a bridge over the Euphrates River west of the city and “established checkpoints at both ends” according to the news service.
The U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division and the Army’s V Corps are known to have participated in the operation to capture the bridge, a critical crossing point for coalition forces as they push north toward Baghdad, about 200 miles away to the northwest.
According to a New York Times reporter embedded with the Third Infantry, U.S. troops met some resistance from Iraqi forces as they approached Nasiriya after racing unimpeded across much of the southern Iraqi desert Friday.
The Third Infantry’s Third Brigade came under artillery fire from Iraq’s 11th Infantry Division, which had dug in to positions around Nasiriya. In response, American military commanders called in air strikes and Apache attack helicopters to overwhelm the Iraqi forces. The intensity of the strikes led hundreds of Iraqi soldiers to surrender to coalition forces, according to the account in the Times.
The division’s Third Battalion, 69th Armored captured another important position on Friday, an airfield at Jalibah that had been a target of an attack in the 1991 Gulf War.
“Everything has gone excellently,” the battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Ernest P. Marcone, told Times reporter Steven Lee Myers.
The imposing wave of tanks, armored vehicles, tanks, fuel carries and artillery that comprises the Army’s Third Infantry Division crossed into Iraq from Kuwait early Friday, apparently meeting little opposition as they made their initial advance.
The Third Infantry Division, which is now considered the primary armored force engaged in the ground war, is reportedly continuing on toward Baghdad, following a western route along the Euphrates.