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 Sunday, April 06, 2003



Another Iraqi child who was injured during the US missile attacks on Baghdad

Iraqi women begging for food to feed their children.

A United States warplane has reportedly bombed a group of American Special Forces soldiers in Northern Iraq, killing some of them and an unknown number of civilians.BBC correspondent John Simpson was driving past trucks carrying the American soldiers, when the convoy exploded."This is a just a scene from hell here, all the vehicles on fire, there's bodies lying around," said Mr Simpson."This is a really bad 'own goal' by the Americans.""We don't know how many Americans are dead, I would say at least 10 or 12.""There's ammunition exploding from some of these cars, and a very senior member of the Kurdish Republic government may have been injured, maybe even dead," Mr Simpson said.

Wajih Barzani, the head of special forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the brother of KDP leader Massoud Barzani, was seriously wounded Sunday when a US plane bombed his convoy by mistake, a high-ranking Kurdish official told AFP.An unknown number of US troops escorting the convoy were among 10 to 12 people killed in the "friendly fire" incident, according to a BBC reporter who was some four metres (yards) away when the bomb fell.

The convoy carrying the Russian ambassador to Iraq and diplomatic staff was attacked Sunday on the road from Baghdad to Syria and there are several injured, a foreign ministry spokesman said. "The car convoy with members of the Russian embassy in Iraq, including the ambassador, came under attack leaving Baghdad in the direction of the Syrian border," the spokesman told AFP.He said officials did not yet know whether the convoy came under attack from Iraqi or US-led coalition forces or if the envoy himself was among the injured.

US military authorities said here Sunday they had no evidence that coalition war planes attacked a Red Crescent maternity hospital in central Baghdad. A statement from US Central Command said it had "found no evidence at this point to support an allegation that coalition aircraft bombed a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, April 2".

Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis and Syrians are fighting alongside Iraqi troops against US forces moving on Baghdad, using tactics including suicide bombings which left two marines dead, US officers said Sunday.One officer with the 1st Marine Division told AFP US troops fought a 10-hour battle with hundreds of such fighters southeast of Baghdad on Friday "They kept bringing them in by the busload," he said. "It's a whole conglomerate of Islamic freedom fighters."

Coalition forces have secured control of Baghdad airport, US Central Command said today after Iraq insisted it had driven US troops away from the site on the outskirts of the city. Spokesman Major General Victor Renuart told reporters in Baghdad that coalition forces now hold the airport "secure".

The Iraqi regime will rely on a defense that is ancient as warfare itself: underground tunnels and bunkers.Over the past 20 years, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is believed to have constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels and bunkers around Baghdad, nearly impervious to US munitions, according to Iraq experts and Western construction officials whose companies helped build the warrens. Many of Iraq’s military tunnels are believed to have been built by Aeroinzenjering, a Serbian engineering firm.

Baghdad under continuous US-UK missile attacks

An Iraqi woman crying after her house was hit by a US missile in Baghdad

Iraqi tanks roll through Baghdad, heading to the front on Saturday

The battle for Baghdad is the defining confrontation of the U.S.-led war to topple the Iraqi president. The street-to-street grind that the Iraqis have promised their American foes has yet to start. It's a nightmare scenario — a potentially costly battle in which anything from light arms, mortars to artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships will be used in this city of 5 million people. By nightfall, Baghdad's streets were crawling with armed men of all kinds — army troops, policemen, militiamen, loyalists from Saddam's Baath party and members of Saddam's Fedayeen, a militia led by the Iraqi leader's eldest son Odai. Tanks, armored personnel carriers and field artillery were deployed, mostly in areas facing the city's western, southern and northern entrances. Also among the thousands of men ready to defend Baghdad are soldiers of the elite Republican Guard, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. They dug fresh trenches and fortified older ones on Saturday. Soldiers took over houses close to the main highway near the southern approaches. Residents of nearby houses offered the fighters food and glasses of sweet, black tea. Children played in the trenches and around the sandbagged positions — some of them allowed to take a close look at the soldiers' weapons or try on their helmets.

The Marines were not battling the Iraqi army or Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard, but a group of well-trained fighters from Syria, Egypt and perhaps other countries, Marine officers said.They were an enemy who fought with more will than any other fighters the Marines have encountered so far.The "jihad" fighters, as Marines dubbed them yesterday, wore civilian clothes or full-length black robes. They were equipped with brand new ammunition and some of the best sniper rifles and armaments money can buy.The Marines appeared a little stunned by the resistance.

Robert Fisk in Baghdad- Eye-witness account (Excerpts):
There were the Iraqi bodies, piled high in the back of a pick-up truck in front of me, army boots hanging over the tailboard, a soldier with an automatic rifle sitting beside them. Beside the highway, a squad of troops was stacking rocket-propelled grenades beside a row of empty shops as the ground beneath us vibrated with the impact of American airstrikes and shellfire. The area was called Qadisiya. A truck crammed with more than a hundred Iraqi troops, many in blue uniforms, all of them carrying rifles which gleamed in the morning sunlight, sped past me toward the airport

Thus did the Battle for Baghdad enter its first hours yesterday, a conflict that promises to be both dirty and cruel.

The Americans were coming.

The Americans were claiming to be in the inner suburbs of Baghdad — which was untrue. indeed, the story was designed to provoke panic and vulnerability among the Iraqis. True or false, the stories failed.

Across vast fields of sand and dirt and palm groves, I saw batteries of Sam-6 anti-aircraft missiles and multiple Katyusha rocket launchers awaiting the American advance. The soldiers around them looked relaxed, some smoking cigarettes in the shade of the palm trees or sipping fruit juice brought to them by the residents of Qadisiya whose homes — heaven help them — were now in the firing line.

There was the pick-up truck. At first, I thought the soldiers on the back were sleeping, covered in blankets to keep them warm. I realized that all the soldiers — there must have been 15 of them in the little truck — were lying on top of each other, all with their heavy black military boots dangling over the tailboard. The two soldiers on the vehicles sat with their feet wedged between the corpses. So did America’s first victims of the day go to their eternal rest.

Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf told journalists in Baghdad, Doura was safe, Qadisiya was safe. Yarmouk was safe. “Go and look for yourselves,” he challenged. Ministry of Information officials were ashen-faced. And when foreign correspondents were bussed off on this overconfident adventure, they were turned back at the Yarmouk Hospital and the ministry buses firmly ordered to carry reporters back to their hotel.

And all day, the air raids continued. It gets confusing, amid the dust and smoke, all these new targets and new pockets of ruination.

Ever so slowly, the suburbs of Baghdad were being turned into battlefields.

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