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 Sunday, March 30, 2003



Civilian Casualty Update

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LATEST Hit on Ansar Al-Islam Camp Finds No Signs of Chemical Weapons :U.S. Special Forces troops went on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in northeastern Iraq Saturday but came up empty-handed. The site they hit was identified by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 as a base for the radical group Ansar al-Islam. Powell showed a satellite photograph of what he said was a chemical weapons training center in northern Iraq used by al Qaeda and protected by Ansar al-Islam. "Special Forces teams, many of whom had trained for months for the Ansar raid, left base early in the morning for the camp. ABCNEWS was the only news organization allowed to join them.The base had been secured just hours earlier, after fierce combat against Ansar al-Islam fighters. The teams came to the camp expecting to find hard evidence Ansar al-Islam has biological and chemical weapons.What they found was a camp devastated by cruise missile strikes from the first days of the war. A specialized biochemical team scoured the rubble for samples. They wore protective masks as they entered a building they suspected was a weapons lab, but found nothing.

The Palestinian radical movement Islamic Jihad said Sunday that it had sent a first batch of its suicide bombers to Baghdad to fight invading US and British forces.The Al-Quds brigades, military wing of Islamic Jihad, "regales our people with the news of the arrival of the first batch of its suicide attackers in Baghdad," a statement sent to AFP said.It followed an Islamic Jihad suicide attack in the Israeli town of Netanya Sunday which killed the bomber and injured 26 people, and which the group said was "a gift from Palestine to the heroic people of Iraq."

A missile struck a residential neighborhood in central Baghdad on Sunday but there were no casualties, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said.An Iraqi information ministry official earlier said missiles had slammed into the neighborhood but gave no further details

In the first confirmation of Iraqi claims that Arab volunteers were entering the country to fight coalition troops, an unknown number of Syrians have arrived in the northern city of Mosul, Al-Jazeera television reported Sunday.The station said from the city that they had crossed into Iraq by unknown routes but without passing through established border posts. It showed pictures of them brandishing weapons and portraits of Iraqi President Saddam Husssein.

Iraqi forces have shot down a Harrier fighter and an Apache attack helicopter in central and southern Iraq respectively, Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf said. He told a press conference the vertical take-off Harrier, which is used by Britain's Royal Air Force and the US Marine Corps, had exploded in flight after being hit by Baath party forces near Qadisiyah.

A truck has rammed into a group of soldiers at a US camp in northern Kuwait on Sunday local time, a US military spokesman said, but he had no details on casualties and could not confirm it was a deliberate attack. "Initial reports show there was a truck driven into a group of soldiers" in one of the many US camps in the north of the emirate, Colonel Gregory Julian said.

A group of people in south-eastern Turkey have showered trailer trucks carrying US military equipment with stones, breaking the windows of two vehicles, the Anatolia news agency reported. The stoning took place just as the convoy of 37 trailer trucks and four vans were coming into Sanliurfa, a mainly Arab-populated province lying along the border with Syria.

A general from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's army has been captured in southern Iraq and is being pressed to provide strategic information, British officers said today.

Saddam vows to take war to U.S. homeland:Opening a chilling new chapter in the conflict, Iraq's Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan warned such suicide attacks would become "routine military policy" not only in Iraq but also the land of its enemy. "We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land," Mr. Ramadan said. He identified the bomber as a non-commissioned army officer and the father of several children. In another jolt to U.S. forces, the remains of what are believed to be U.S. marines were discovered in a shallow grave near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign so far

The United States has mistakenly named Slovenia as a partner in its war against Iraq.Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop says the US even offered his country a share of the money budgeted for the conflict. He says when asked for an explanation the US State Department admitted Slovenia was named in a document by mistake.Slovenia now will not get the $7.5 million it was mistakenly offered in the US war budget.

Current and former United States military officers have blamed the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and his aides for the inadequate troop strength on the ground in Iraq.They allege the civilian leaders "micromanaged" the deployment plan out of mistrust of the generals and in an attempt to prove their own theory that a light, manoeuvrable force could easily defeat Saddam Hussein.General Barry McCaffrey, who commanded a division during the 1991 Gulf War, said he told a senior member of Mr Rumsfeld's staff that the secretary's office had to stop meddling in the deployment and let army commanders have the units they believed they needed to fight

THE number of troops in the Gulf could be dramatically reduced if war drags on, Britain's leading soldier warned yesterday.General Sir Mike Jackson said: "This amount of commitment is not sustainable over a long period of time." He even suggested the fire dispute could hamper Britain's commitment in the Gulf."If this is dragging on in six months I expect forces to be cut from 45,000 to 5,000." As the US committed 100,000 more troops to war, Gen Jackson hinted thousands of soldiers could be sent to replace exhausted troops.

San Francisco's Bechtel Corp. inched closer Friday to winning a major government contract to rebuild Iraq, after a government source said that its rival Halliburton Co. may no longer be under consideration to lead the job. Halliburton, the Texas construction firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, would probably not be the prime company on the contract but could still have a hand in the work as a subcontractor, said Timothy Beans with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In his newspaper article, Mr Robin Cook, who resigned as British Leader of the Commons in protest at the decision to launch hostilities without international agreement, denounced the campaign as "bloody and unnecessary". He also warned that Britain and the United States risked stoking up a "long-term legacy of hatred" for the West across the Arab and Muslim world. Mr Cook wrote: "I have already had my fill of this bloody and unnecessary war. "I want our troops home and I want them home before more of them are killed."

Iran "will not support" an Iraqi government installed by the United States - only one chosen democratically by the Iraqi people, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said. "We will not support a government installed by the Americans in Iraq," Mr Kharazi told a press conference in Iraq. "Such a government is an imposed government."We can only respect a government if it is established under the supervision of the United Nations and has been chosen by the vote of the Iraqis themselves."

Ahmad Chalabi, 57, an urbane, British-educated former banker who used to be based in Knightsbridge, hoped that the Americans would support his plans to lead an Iraqi interim authority. By Friday, his hopes had been largely dashed when Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, refused to back his proposals.

An explosion rocked an empty shopping mall on the waterfront early today in Kuwait City, the capital, sending a huge plume of white smoke towering into the sky. Some Kuwaiti officials who examined the fragments said they believed an errant American cruise missile had been fired from the Persian Gulf toward Iraq."It was an American cruise missile, we know from the markings and writing on it," said a Kuwaiti police colonel who did not give his name. "It doesn't go up, it comes in low from the sea, and that's why there was no alert."

U.S. engineers moved through Iraq's vast southern Rumaila oilfields on Sunday, shutting down wellheads in an operation that could take months to complete.Having discovered a cache of arms and a minefield, U.S. troops must tread carefully in their mission to safeguard the region's oilfields which pumped more than half Iraq's 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) exports before the war began.


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LATEST Rockets have been fired at the international peacekeepers' compound in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, police say.National police chief Haroun Azzefi says one of two rockets landed in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) compound, which is close to the US embassy and presidential compound.

Even as the United States military campaign against Iraq was being directed out of headquarters in the Arab emirate of Qatar, counterterror experts expressed concern Thursday that the tiny Persian Gulf state's security chief is an Al Qaeda sympathizer.U.S. counterterrorism authorities have long believed that Qatar's interior minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, has sheltered terrorists -- including the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 hijacking plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- in and around his farm compound near the capital of Doha. One former CIA agent familiar with the situation described Al-Thani as a potential danger to U.S. troops operating out of Central Command headquarters in Doha -- especially if the war in Iraq drags on or incites Muslim hostilities in the region.

President Jacques Chirac has ordered his officials to draw up plans for a French-language, international television channel to counter the growing influence of the BBC and CNN.He has demanded that the blueprint for the service - already nicknamed "CNN a la Francaise" - be ready by the end of next month as he has become increasingly irritated by the "Anglo-Saxon" view of global events which is being beamed into millions of homes and hotel rooms around the world.He also wants to challenge America's domination of international affairs by extending French language and influence.

About 26 people were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a cafe in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv.Eyewitnesses say the bomber tried to enter the London Cafe in Netanya as it was crowded with lunchtime patrons but was prevented from doing so by security guards. The first indications were that the bomb was relatively small compared to those used in recent attacks.

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