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 Sunday, April 06, 2003



Civilian Casualty Update

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LATEST A U.S. military cargo plane landed at Baghdad's international airport late Sunday, the first known U.S. aircraft to arrive in the Iraqi capital, the U.S. Central Command said. Navy Lt. Mark Kitchens, a Central Command spokesman, confirmed the C-130 cargo and transport aircraft had landed at the airport but gave no details, citing operational security. U.S. forces say they have effective control over the airport, despite sporadic attacks including one Sunday against the 101st Airborne Division that left two Iraqis dead.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell called his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on Sunday to assure him that an investigation is underway into an incident in which Russian diplomats fleeing Baghdad came under heavy fire, the State Department said.In addition to Powell's call, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who is now in Moscow in a bid to ease seriously strained relations with Russia is expected to discuss the incident with Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, a US official said

The US military said today it had not yet found any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and it believed there was a diminishing threat that Iraq might use them as US-led troops take over more territory. "The places it's most likely to be found we haven't even gotten to them yet," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at Central Command in Qatar.

U.S. artillery and planes kept up a relentless bombardment of Baghdad as armored columns circled its fringes. For the first time in the war, mortar bombs landed in the city center. Panicked residents fled to escape the fighting for Saddam's stronghold. The government banned travel in or out of the city between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. With temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit, thousands of families set out from the capital on foot and in overloaded cars to find safe haven in remote provinces.

US Central Command said here Sunday that an alleged shooting on a Russian diplomatic convoy took place on territory controlled by Iraq and that no US-led coalition forces were in the area. "Based on the reported location, the incident is believed to have taken place in territory controlled by the Iraqi regime," a statement said, adding that "initial reports" showed no presence of US-led coalition forces nearby.

Egyptians, Sudanese, Jordanians, Saudis and Syrian volunteer fighters are continuing to enter Iraq to fight against US-led invasion forces as they move in on Baghdad. One officer with the 1st Marine Division told AFP that his troops had fought a 10 hour battle with hundreds of fighters southeast of Baghdad yesterday. There are now signs that the steady trickle of immigrant fighters may be growing in size. Western intelligence sources say that they have detected groups of Saudi fighters trying to get into Iraq to attack US and UK forces there, according to the BBC. Others are trying to cross into Iraq from Iran. Four groups of Saudis are also said to have left their hideouts in Afghanistan to join Iraqi forces as well. Yemen has prevented 39 of its nationals from travelling to Damascus. Their one-way tickets had been paid for by the Ba’ath party of Yemen.

U.S. aircraft mistakenly bombed a convoy of allied Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 17 Kurdish fighters and wounding 45, including a brother of the man who runs half the Kurdish enclave, a spokesman for the leader's party said.

US and Iraqi forces continue to battle for control of Saddam International Airport. Both sides claim it in its entirety, but both claims appear dubious. No one can use it, which suggests that there is still a lot of fighting to come and that control is split.However, there is as yet no conclusive proof that the US has taken the airport completely.Misinformation is commonplace at this time. Military analysts believe that the ease with which US troops rolled into the airport, which has been rendered unusable, suggests that it does not feature prominently in Iraqi military plans.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it will have no part in the US-led war on Iraq, but at least two accounts from the US military command on the conduct of the campaign have come out of the kingdom in the past 24 hours.The Central Command Sunday issued a statement from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Al-Kharj, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Riyadh, in which it acknowledged that its warplanes might have mistakenly attacked a joint US-Kurdish convoy in northern Iraq.

US officials are concerned that once the Iraqi government is ousted radicals supported by neighboring countries could carry out suicide bombings aimed at US troops, Time magazine said Sunday.The news magazine cited a senior US official as saying small groups of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah agents have infiltrated Iraq.

With only one or two Iraqi cities firmly held by US-led forces in the third week of their invasion, experts are questioning the effectiveness of the American war plan, and the credibility of messages being relayed by US diplomats."We are almost in control of their country,'' said US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday.“It would be more correct to say we are operating in most areas of the country but we control very little,” said Cirincione, also Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He asked: How can they announce the capture of certain cities when they confess to pockets of resistance?How can they claim they’ve taken a city when they’re still being fired upon, or when they continue shelling a town centre? Coalition forces are actually seizing the outskirts of cities, according to Bilal, where the public is not involved in the the defence of a city. A city’s defence plan does not include the outskirts, he said.



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The SAR virus in Asia

The feared American boycott of German and French products has failed to materialize. But an increasing number of Europeans are shunning Coke, Jack Daniels and other symbols of the U.S. Sales are growing for Mercedes-Benz, which has seen its revenues stateside increase by 1.8 percent, and BMW, which has booked 18 percent growth -- largely due to the popularity of its revamped Mini. French wines continue to fare the same, despite the trend in the U.S. to rename French foods, like the U.S. Senate's re-christening of french fries.Some restaurants have stopped serving Coca Cola andJack Daniels whiskey. They've also stopped using Heinz ketchup in recipes. Restaurants have also reported that more customers are asking for non-American alternatives to Coke, like Germany's homegrown Afri-Cola.Darmstadt-based bicycle-maker Riese and Müller has stopped purchasing parts from American companies because of its opposition to the war.

Inter-ethnic massacres have claimed "hundreds of lives" in DR Congo's troubled north-eastern Ituri region, sources say. "They're talking about several hundred dead," General Kale Kaihura, commander of Ugandan troops in the region bordering Uganda, said by telephone from the Ituri town of Bunia. The casualties were found in the towns of Drodro and Largo and were said to be members of the Hema community. They died in an attack by members of the Lendu ethnic group, Ugandan officers said.

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