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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=389572 Special forces attempting to cut off Kirkuk, say Kurds By Patrick Cockburn in Dollabakra, northern Iraq Kurish military commanders say US special forces are seeking to cut off the northern Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Mosul from the south, but they could not confirm that Americans had seized the Kirkuk oilfields. "They are using small groups of special forces to cut off the cities," said General Nasrudin Mustafa, the commander of Kurdish forces just north of Kirkuk. But he could not substantiate a BBC report quoting intelligence sources saying the special forces had captured Kirkuk oilfields, the greatest prize in northern Iraq. General Mustafa said that he did not expect the Iraqi army in Kirkuk to put up much resistance, but they were frightened to surrender. Unlike Kirkuk, Mosul, the largely Arab capital of northern Iraq, has been bombed. General Mustafa said: "The US has forces close to Mosul but they are there secretly." He added that the war in the north was turning out very differently from how the Kurds had expected a month ago when they had thought Turkey would allow an American land army to cross into northern Iraq and capture Mosul. <skip> The northern front of the offensive against President Saddam has been slow to develop because of the unexpected refusal of Turkey to support the American and British invasion. Because of that, intelligence reports that the Kirkuk oilfields had been captured could be an attempt to keep the Iraqi high command focused on the north of the country. The Iraqi army is expected to fight for Baghdad and Tikrit, but had probably written off Basra and the far south from an early stage. Basra is too close to Kuwait and too far from Baghdad to defend. It is also an overwhelmingly Shia Muslim city with little sympathy for President Saddam. The Iraqi leader's strategy, according to one veteran Iraqi observer, is "to draw the war out, to make it last for 20 days or more". President Saddam can do that best by forcing the Allies to fight in the cities where they cannot use their airpower and the Iraqi army knows the terrain better than they do. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk