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 Monday, April 07, 2003



Civilian Casualty Update

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LATEST The urban warfare that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein promised the invading forces finally began as dozens of U.S. tanks rumbled into the city and entered two presidential compounds on the west bank of the Tigris on Monday. Iraqi snipers crouched behind bridges and artillery fire rang out from almost every direction . " Iraqi forces are blocking streets all over town and their artillery is in action," Reuters correspondent Samia Nakhoul said. "The Iraqis are definitely fighting back. "Almost the only people walking the streets were Iraqi soldiers in full combat gear or fighters in civilian clothes.

A facility near Baghdad that a US officer had said might finally be "smoking gun" evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons production turned out to contain pesticide, not sarin gas as feared.Initial tests had reportedly detected traces of sarin -- a powerful toxin that quickly affects the nervous system -- after US soldiers guarding the facility near Hindiyah, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, fell ill. A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP news agency that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds. The turnaround was an embarrassment for the US forces in the region, which had been quick to say that they thought they had finally found the proof they have been actively looking for that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Peter Arnett began reporting from Iraq today as a special Baghdad correspondent for Taiwan's TVBS cable news. Arnett has also been reporting for pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He has also been hired by the private Belgian TV network VTM, the state-run Greek television channel NET, and The Daily Mirror of London, a tabloid vehemently opposed to the war.

An “embedded” Arab journalist has questioned the coverage of the war by the Western media, saying it has become an integral part of the war machine.“Once you are embedded with them you can write only what they want you to write. You sign papers that stipulate you will get your reports cleared by them before sending it to your editors,” Waiel S.H. Awwad, the New Delhi-based Syrian journalist who was covering the war for the newly launched Al-Arabiya television channel, told IANS on his return here. Awwad was embedded with the 3rd unit of the US Marine Corps.

Several massive blasts were heard from the direction of the Republican Palace. Fuel trenches inside the compound were also started to be on fire. Artillery fire was also heard from the direction of the Saddam International Airport, which had reportedly fallen to the US troops two days earlier. Al Jazeera television reported the presence of a large number of armed Iraqi men on Baghdad’s streets. Carrying rocket propelled grenades and ammunition strapping their chests, they stood guard at various cross sections. Resistance to the US advance was reported to be fierce in several places. Reuters correspondent, Khaled Oweis reported that Iraqi troops were blocking many of the bridges over the Tigris while Republic Guards were maintaining vigil around key ministries. US military officials however insisted that they have punched their way through central Baghdad’s city center. With the battle coming to engulf the entire city, fear-stricken civilians generally stayed indoors. The city streets looked lot emptier than what it has been ever since the start of the invasion nearly three weeks ago.

The northern Iraqi city of Mosul came under heavy shelling Monday morning from United States-led forces seeking to capture the town. Reports from the city is the “fiercest” bombing Mosul has seen since the start of the invasion on March 20. Mosul remains under Iraqi control. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and US troops, parachuted in last week, are trying to make forays into the town, which they hope to capture and gain a launching pad for operations against other northern targets.

Two U.S. soldiers died and at least six others were wounded in an Iraqi attack on a U.S. communications center on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, military sources said on Monday.Commenting on the attack on the communications center, Maj. Michael Birmingham, chief public affairs officer for the U.S. 3rd Infantry, said: "Some sort of a rocket hit near the 2nd Brigade's tactical operation center south of the city."The 2nd Brigade is part of the 3rd Infantry.

Russan convoy leaving Baghdad
The Russian ambassador to Iraq on Monday accused US forces of deliberately shooting at his convoy as it was fleeing Iraq for Syria.. Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko was lightly injured. The convoy was carrying Russian flags as it was leaving Baghdad. US M-16 bullet casings were found in the vehicles. US forces were accused of trying to stop the Russian convoy for inspections several times, "but these attempts were thwarted by the Russian diplomats." The Russians had agreed on a time and route for their evacuation from Baghdad with the US authorities."When we left Baghdad at a time and following a route agreed with the Americans, a column of US tanks, armored troop carriers and mobile artillery blocked our way," Titorenko said."Our convoy, headed by my car and carrying Russian flags, stopped, but they unexpectedly opened fire," he added.

Reason for US attack on Russian convoy: According to Russian intelligence reports, the American command was irritated by the presence of the Russian embassy in Baghdad. It believed that some technical intelligence equipment was deployed at the Russian embassy that provided the Iraqis with information. The Secretary of State Colin Powell then demanded the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov to immediate ly evacuate its embassy staff from Baghdad. Some officers in the coalition HQ in Qatar had openly claimed that the Russian embassy had operated “jammers” hampering the high-precision weapons around Baghdad. The Russian minister informed the Americans the embassy convoy would be leaving Baghdad on the 6th of April, heading for the Syrian border. US State Department officials were not happy with the route because they had suggested the convoy should move to Jordan. The coalition special operations HQ believed the Russian convoy had secret devices taken from US military equipment captured by the Iraqis. Thus the possibility of “revenge” by the coalition command. Russian experts claim that the purpose of this armed assault on the convoy was to damage a few cars where the Russians would have to leave some of the salvage. According to the most recent field report, the convoy got ambushed almost 30 km to the west from the city on the territory occupied by the coalition, but moving fast it escaped from fire and made a few more kilometers where it was blocked by military jeeps. On attempting to establish contact with their crews it received fire again, then the jeeps vanished.

British troops declared the battle for Basra "more or less over" as thousands of soldiers poured into Iraq)s main southern city, seizing control of key buildings including Saddam Hussein's presidential palace. The British have been making regular incursions into Basra over the last few days but it was the first time that they had been able to move into the narrow streets of the old town.

British military officers say they have found the body of "Chemical Ali", Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's cousin and commander of the southern region, Sky television has reported. The Associated Press news agency also reports Ali Hassan al-Majid's body has been found.

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told reporters: "They told you that the fighting was going on near the Information Ministry and al-Rashid hotel. I was sitting in the ministry and I made a tour to the hotel and there was nothing but Iraqi fighters and citizens carrying rifles to defend their city," he said. A group of reporters were taken by the authorities to the Information Ministry building, which was under Iraqi control.



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LATEST Preliminary UN investigation has found that at least 966 men, women and children were killed in dawn raids on more than a dozen villages in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, officials said yesterday. The investigators also discovered about 20 mass graves and found that many of the victims had been executed in the attacks on Thursday, the worst atrocity investigated by the UN in the four and a half years of civil war in Congo, said Manodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the UN mission.

The Taliban have taken control of the headquarters in Naubahar and Shinkai districts in the southwestern Zabul province in Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Mukhtar Mujahid, told The News that their fighters evicted the Afghan government officials manning the Naubahar and Shinkai district headquarters on Sunday morning. "Armed Taliban fired in the air to force the government militiamen to vacate the Uloswali (district offices). They spared the lives of the government functionaries because the Taliban objective was to make their presence felt rather than harming fellow Afghans," he explained. Mujahid said the primary aim of the Taliban and their allies was to compel all foreign forces to pullout from Afghanistan. He said the "jihad" would continue until the US-led occupation forces withdrew from Afghanistan. He pointed out that Afghans serving the US military authorities in Afghanistan or working for the "puppet" Hamid Karzai government would be considered a legitimate target in case they refused to give up their work. There was no independent confirmation of the Taliban claim. The US military and the Afghan government have yet to react to the claim.

In a message to the Afghans, that was distributed in tapes near Kandahar, Mullah Mohamed Omar affirmed that Osama Bin Laden is fine and in good health. He added that the head of Al Qaida is leading the organization from a secure place that cannot be reached by the American troops and their Afghan puppets. He asked all Muslims to not believe the infidels' lies that aim at frustrating the spirits of the youths and discouraging them from doing their responsibilities. He called for fighting the infidels and ignoring their lies until Allah reward us Victory or martyrdom. Mullah Omar asserted that the operations and Guerrilla attacks against the Americans and their allies are going to increase in the near future.

Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea will not open as planned, South Korean officials said, explaining that Pyongyang had cut off all contact with Seoul regarding the meeting

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