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[casi] News, 19-26/03/03 (3)



News, 19-26/03/03 (3)

DESERT SWARM

*  Blowing sand grounds aircraft near border
*  'You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious'
*  Joy, muted by memories of the last time
*  Clashes at Key River Crossing Bring Heaviest Day of American Casualties
*  Fierce battle around port
*  Iraqi bodies litter plain
*  Australian pilot gives thumbs down to US bombing order
*  Slow Aid and Other Concerns Fuel Iraqi Discontent Toward United States
*  List of war casualties
*  U.S. Cautious About Promoting Uprisings
*  US claims 500 killed in sweep past Najaf
*  'Desert Rats' poised to enter Basra
*  Iraqis still waiting for food and water


DESERT SWARM

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1826918

*  BLOWING SAND GROUNDS AIRCRAFT NEAR BORDER
by James Pinkerton
Houston Chronicle, 19th March

AT AN AIR BASE NEAR THE IRAQI BORDER -- A sudden sandstorm reduced
visibility to less than a quarter mile at this forward air base Wednesday,
shutting down flight operations for most of the aircraft assembled for the
invasion of Iraq.

The storm, which swept in two hours after dawn, blanketed the base with
blowing sand, forcing thousands of American and British soldiers to take
shelter in tents and barracks as the clock ticked toward the U.S. deadline
for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face attack.

"It's perfect timing." Lt. Col. Brian C. Murtha, the commander of the U.S.
Marine Corps' Helicopter Squadron HMM 365, said of the storm. "Typically,
this will last a day or two and stay a little hazy and clear up."

The swirling sand grounded the bulk of the base's armada of helicopter
gunships, cargo planes, reconnaissance aircraft and troop transports. The
only planes able to leave the base when the clouds of dust cleared a little
in late afternoon were a group of British jet fighters.

"The sandstorms make a difference," said 1st. Lt. Brian Clifton, a
27-year-old helicopter pilot with the Marines' HMM 364 Squadron.

"We operate low to the ground, and this blowing sand and dust limits your
visibility," said Clifton, a native of Lufkin. "You don't want to fly in
that, because there are 300-foot electric towers everywhere. You catch your
rotor blade on an electrical cable, and you're going to have a bad day."

The storm also affected some communication systems.

"My satellite antenna was vibrating like a guitar string," said Boston M.
Patterson Jr., a civilian telecommunications contractor. "We were
incommunicado for 30 minutes, dead in the water."

Stationed at this air base are hundreds of pilots from the Marine Corps,
Navy and Air Force whose wartime responsibilities would include ferrying
troops and equipment into Iraq.

"We never sacrifice safety of personnel due to weather," one pilot said.
"Mission accomplishment and personnel safety are always balanced."

As war loomed, the alert level was raised at the base, where troops already
were under orders to carry gas masks and antidotes for chemical agents.

"We have increased our protective posture. Airmen are now required to wear
flak jackets and carry their chemical suits wherever they go," said Capt.
John Sheets, public affairs officer for the Air Force.

Most pilots spent the day reviewing orders and poring over maps of Iraq's
rugged terrain.

Some soldiers took time to make last-minute purchases at the base store,
stripping snack foods, toiletries and miniature flashlights from shelves.
One soldier left with items stuffed in each pocket and a large roll of duct
tape attached to his belt.

"I'm going to war looking like a clown," he said.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,919642,00.html

*  'YOU'RE LATE. WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG? GOD HELP YOU BECOME VICTORIOUS'
by James Meek in Safwan
The Guardian, 22nd March

Yesterday afternoon a truck drove down a side road in the Iraqi town of
Safwan, laden with rugs and furniture. Booty or precious possessions? In a
day of death, joy and looting, it was hard to know.

As the passengers spotted European faces, one boy grinned and put his thumb
up. The other nervously waved a white flag. The mixed messages defined the
moment: Thank you. We love you. Please don't kill us.

US marines took Safwan at about 8am yesterday. There was no rose-petal
welcome, no cheering crowd, no stars and stripes.

Afraid that the US and Britain will abandon them, the people of Safwan did
not touch the portraits and murals of Saddam Hussein hanging everywhere. It
was left to the marines to tear them down. It did not mean there was not
heartfelt gladness at the marines' arrival. Ajami Saadoun Khlis, whose son
and brother were executed under the Saddam regime, sobbed like a child on
the shoulder of the Guardian's Egyptian translator. He mopped the tears but
they kept coming.

"You just arrived," he said. "You're late. What took you so long? God help
you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We
came out of the grave."

"For a long time we've been saying: 'Let them come'," his wife, Zahara,
said. "Last night we were afraid, but we said: 'Never mind, as long as they
get rid of him, as long as they overthrow him, no problem'." Their
29-year-old son was executed in July 2001, accused of harbouring warm
feelings for Iran.

"He was a farmer, he had a car, he sold tomatoes, and we had a life that we
were satis fied with," said Khlis. "He was in prison for a whole year, and I
raised 75m dinars in bribes. It didn't work. The money was gone, and he was
gone. They sent me a telegram. They gave me the body."

The marines rolled into the border town after a bombardment which left up to
a dozen people dead. Residents gave different figures. A farmer, Haider, who
knew one of the men killed, Sharif Badoun, said: "Killing some is worth it,
to end the injustice and suffering." The men around him gave a collective
hysterical laugh.

The injustice of tyranny was merged in their minds with the effects of
sanctions. "Look at the way we're dressed!" said Haider, and scores of men
held up their stained, holed clothes. "We are isolated from the rest of the
world."

The marines took Safwan without loss, although a tank hit a mine. "They had
to clear that route through. They found the way to punch through and about
10 Iraqi soldiers surrendered immediately," said Marine Sergeant Jason
Lewis, from Denver, standing at a checkpoint at the entrance to the town
where, minutes earlier, a comrade had folded a huge portrait of President
Saddam and tucked it into his souvenir box.

The welcome, he admitted, had been cool. "At first they were a little
hesitant," he said. "As you know, Saddam's a dictator, so we've got to
reassure them we're here to stay _ We tore down the Saddam signs to show
them we mean business.

"Hopefully this time we'll do it right, and give these Iraqis a chance of
liberty."

But the marines' presence was light. They had not brought food, medicines,
or even order. All day hundreds of armoured vehicles poured through the
town. But they did not stop, and the looting continued. Every government
establishment seemed to be fair game. People covered their faces in shame as
they carried books out of a school. Tawfik Mohammed, the headmaster,
initially denied his school had been looted, then admitted it. "This is the
result of your entering," he said. "Whenever any army enters an area it
becomes chaos. We are cautious about the future. We are very afraid."

Safwan yesterday was a place where people were constantly taking you aside
to warn in veiled terms that it was necessary to be careful. Everywhere was
the lingering fear that the revenge killings that swept the area in 1991 - a
product of US encourage ment and then abandonment of the southern Iraqi
revolt - could happen again.

"Now, we are afraid [Saddam's] government will come back," said Haider, as
the Safwan Farmers' Cooperative was being looted behind him. "We don't trust
the Americans any more. People made a revolution, and they didn't help us."

Safwan is a crumbling, dead-end place, full of poor, restless young men, and
reliant on the tomato trade for its income. Farmers were panicking yesterday
as they asked journalists, in lieu of anyone better, how they were supposed
to sell their tomatoes.

A handful of soldiers, mainly US marines but with a few British, are
struggling to cope with the chaos and the lack of health care or aid.

At a checkpoint just north of the town two British military policemen with
paramedical training and a US doctor rushed to treat two Iraqi men brought
in on the back of a beaten-up pick-up truck. Their legs were lacerated by
shrapnel. The military policemen did their conscientious best, and may have
saved their lives.


http://www.iht.com/articles/90644.html

*  JOY, MUTED BY MEMORIES OF THE LAST TIME
by Dexter Filkins
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 22nd March

SAFWAN, Iraq: Happiness and dread rose together Friday from this desolate
border village, where some of the first Iraqis to encounter American and
British troops found the joy of their deliverance muted by the fear that it
was too good to last.

As hundreds of troops swept in here just after dawn, the heartache of a town
that has felt some of the hardest edges of Saddam Hussein's rule seemed to
burst forth, with villagers running into the streets to celebrate in a kind
of grim ecstasy, laughing and weeping in long guttural cries.

"Ooooooh, peace be upon you, peace be upon you, peace you, ooooooh," Zahra
Khafi, a 68 year-old resident, cried to a group of American and British
visitors who came to the town shortly after Saddam's army had appeared to
melt away. "I'm not afraid of Saddam anymore."

Two years ago, Khafi said, her 39-year son, Masood, was murdered by Saddam's
men for a crime no greater than devotion to the Shiite branch of Islam,
which is out of official favor in Iraq. As Khafi told her story, her joy
gave way to gloom, and she began to weep, and then to moan, and finally she
pleaded with her visitors to stay and protect her.

"Should I be afraid?" Khafi said, mumbling and wiping her eyes. "Is Saddam
coming back?"

As American and British tanks and troop carriers rumbled through en route to
nearby Basra, Safwan seemed to celebrate the collapse of Saddam's rule with
a glance over its shoulder.

Only hours before, they said, the Mukhabarat, Saddam's security force, still
had held Safwan in a state of near permanent terror. Even now, the villagers
said, Saddam's agents were still among them, waiting, as they did 12 years
ago, for their moment to return.

"There, there are Saddam's men, and if you leave me they will kill me right
now," said a trembling Najah Neema, an Iraqi soldier, who said he had torn
off his uniform and thrown down his weapon and run away as the American
forces approached at dawn.

Like many townspeople here, Neema said he feared that the Americans would
lose their will, as they had in 1991, when an American-encouraged uprising
across southern Iraq fell before a withering assault by Saddam's regime that
drew no American opposition.

One of those people whom Neema pointed to with such fear was Tawfik
Mohammed, a well-dressed man who stood a few yards away. Mohammed laughed at
the suggestion that he had ever worked for Saddam's regime.

He is headmaster of the local school, he said, and a respectable man.

"God willing, the Mukhabarat will return," Mohammed said with a wave, and he
walked away. A crowd that had gathered around him gave a nervous laugh.

With such trepidation, much of the celebrating was performed for them by
U.S. Marines, who tore down every larger-than-life image of Saddam that
decorated the town. They pried loose one by tying it to the bumper of a
troop carrier, and another by cutting it up with a dagger.

"Feels good," said Oscar Guerrero, a Marine from Texas, as he ran his blade
through the canvas likeness of the Iraqi leader. "I wish he were here in
person."

Some of the Iraqis looked on as if in a daze. Others seemed to be resisting
the temptation to cheer. A few, perhaps recalling Saddam's many comebacks,
worked themselves up in an angry lather.

"How would you like it I were to cut up a poster of President Bush?"
demanded one of Safwan's residents, but his remarks were quickly drowned out
by catcalls.

All across Safwan and the vast desert that surrounds it, one startling image
after another tumbled forth from the chaos of battle. Just up the road
toward Basra, the objective of the advance, a group of Iraqi soldiers stood
before a group of Western reporters, waving white flags in surrender. A
little farther up the road stood an Iraqi tank, not surrendering, with its
barrel pointed in a menacing way.

Down the road toward Safwan, an Iraqi man, saying he was from Basra, haggled
with a young Marine about letting him pass. The man drove a beat-up white
Toyota truck, and in the back stood a cow, and underneath it a calf,
nursing.

"Tell him to come back in a half an hour," the Marine said through a
translator.

As the afternoon ebbed away, and the Marines secured their hold on Safwan, a
crazed Iraqi man drove up to the same checkpoint in another white pick-up.
This one contained two Iraqi villagers, both severely wounded in the
U.S.-British bombardment overnight. One of the men, Mishtaq Thuwaini, had
suffered horrific burns across most his body. The outer layers of skin had
been burned away, and they had peeled away from his body like paper
wrapping.

Thuwaini lay motionless in the truck, moaning occasionally, as a group of
Marines did their best with the inadequate instruments at hand. The Marines
had outrun their medical care, and help was not expected soon.

"There is not much we can do for him up here," one of the Marines said.

And so, after a time, the crazed Iraqi man pulled the truck under a bridge
and prepared to spend the evening, the two men in a bed in the back.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16610-2003Mar23.html

*  CLASHES AT KEY RIVER CROSSING BRING HEAVIEST DAY OF AMERICAN CASUALTIES
by Susan B. Glasser and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, 24th March

[.....]

U.S. commanders had expected Hussein to adopt a scorched-earth strategy in
response to an American invasion, perhaps using chemical weapons and
sabotaging the country's vast southern oil fields. Some U.S. officials and
analysts also predicted that large numbers of Iraqi soldiers would quickly
surrender, that civilians would welcome U.S. troops as liberators and that a
display of overwhelming force would trigger anti-government revolts,
particularly in southern Iraq, which is dominated by Shiite Muslims who have
little love for Hussein's Sunni-dominated government.

Those assumptions shaped American war plans. Instead of making a slow,
deliberate push into the country, U.S. commanders focused on securing key
installations and moving as quickly as possible toward Baghdad and other
strategic targets, leaving difficult situations in the south for later
resolution.

[.....]

In the most dramatic ground advance, the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry
Division traversed about 230 miles in 40 hours, racing day and night across
the desert to take up positions roughly 100 miles from Baghdad. At one
point, the soldiers ran into 100 Iraqi militiamen who had pickup trucks
armed with machine guns. The unit killed almost all of the Iraqis, according
to journalists traveling with the soldiers.

The dead U.S. soldiers and five prisoners of war shown on Iraqi television
were reported to be members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, based
at Fort Bliss, Tex. The unit had been driving toward Baghdad to support the
3rd Infantry's rapid advance. The soldiers were traveling down a route that
had been secured, but mistakenly took a wrong turn into an area with no U.S.
combat forces.

"It was probably like many other tragic incidents in war, when a young
officer leading his convoy made a wrong turn and went somewhere where he
wasn't supposed to," Abizaid said.

The gruesome Iraqi television footage provided lingering, close-up images of
the dead soldiers lying on the floor. Two of them appeared to have been shot
in the head, one directly between his eyes and one in the forehead. An
announcer for al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite network that diffused the
footage, said the video of the men's bodies was made in a morgue in
Nasiriyah.

The footage also included brief and apparently spontaneous interviews with
four men and a woman who identified themselves as American soldiers. All the
prisoners appeared nervous and two appeared to be injured. A man was
pictured lying on a cot, groaning and grimacing; his arms were bandaged and
his face was bloody. A woman was shown sitting on a sofa, clutching her arms
over her chest; she was barefoot and her left ankle was bandaged.

The Marines' Task Force Tarawa pulled into Nasiriyah today to take control
from the Army as 3rd Division units moved north. Marine units set out
quickly to secure two bridges traversing the Euphrates on the eastern side
of town. But they were met by Iraqi army units armed with tanks, artillery
and mortars on a two-mile stretch of road between the bridges. Separate
paramilitary squadrons dressed in black also sniped at the U.S. troops with
assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, U.S. officers reported.

In addition to the Marines killed in the grenade attack on their vehicle,
about 50 others were reported injured in the fighting, U.S. military
officials said.

Many of the casualties occurred after the Marines approached Iraqis who
appeared to be surrendering but instead opened fire, Abizaid said. In one
instance, Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes seemed to welcome U.S.
troops and then shot at them. In another, Abizaid said, Iraqis raised a flag
of surrender, then opened fire with artillery.

The six-hour battle ended only after the Marines called in air support from
F/A-18 Hornets, AV-8 Harriers, A-10 Thunderbolt tank killers and AH-1 Cobra
attack helicopters. The Marines reported destroying 10 Soviet-era T-55 tanks
as well as an artillery battery and an antiaircraft gun. Marine officers
made no estimate of Iraqi casualties.

[.....]


http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,920580,00.html

*  FIERCE BATTLE AROUND PORT
by Nick Parker in Umm Qasr and Rory McCarthy in Qatar
The Guardian, 24th March

US and British troops were locked in fierce gunfights with Republican Guard
soldiers yesterday as they struggled to take control of Umm Qasr, a small
strategically important port on the Kuwaiti border.

The port will be used to bring in food and logistics supplies once fighting
is over.

Military officials said 120 elite Republican Guard soldiers had been sent to
the Kuwaiti border to halt the coalition advance.

"They were inserted to put some backbone into the troops, which they haven't
done," said Air Marshal Brian Burridge, the commander of UK forces in Iraq.
Only the Republican Guards were fighting now, he said. "At the moment they
are fighting fiercely."

British marine commandos were sent in to reinforce the US troops yesterday.

Although US generals insisted the war was going to plan and that troops were
advancing faster than expected, there was not the mass surrender that
military planners had hoped for.

In many cases coalition troops have met unexpectedly strong resistance. As
well as the fight at Umm Qasr, US troops talked of facing resistance at
Basra, further north at Nassiriya and at the Shia religious town of Najaf,
100 miles south of Baghdad.

At Umm Qasr, remarkable live television footage showed US marines using
heavy machine guns and Abrams M1 tanks as they tried to kill remaining
groups of Iraqi soldiers. British Harrier jets were called in for air
strikes.

Marines said that as soon as US forces crossed over a sand berm and a trench
on the Kuwaiti border they came un der heavy fire. "We called in artillery
from British units behind us but the explosions were coming in so close we
were forced to pull back," said Sergeant Chris Demuro, 31, one of the
marines in Fox Company who pushed forward at the front of the assault.

"It was terrifying. There was noise and confusion and we could see the white
muzzle flashes from the guns of the Iraqis in a group of buildings up
ahead."

US marines returned fire and two Cobra helicopter gunships checked the area
before they pushed through. A blue Toyota truck appeared and headed straight
towards them with a car behind it.

"We tried to flag it down but it kept on going and when it passed an Abrams
tank, weapons were seen inside the cab. We were under threat and had no
option but to stop it and a Humvee jeep blasted it with a 50-calibre machine
gun.

"The bullets lit up the truck and in an instant it was a rolling fireball:
no one inside it would have stood a chance."

The car following them was carrying a family, some of whom were injured and
were later treated by the marines.

Sgt Demuro said Iraqis in civilian clothes surrendered and the marines found
their uniforms and weapons hidden nearby.

At the dockyard by the port the marines spotted a lone gunman manning a
sentry post above the main gates. He was promptly killed by a tank shell
fired from 40 metres.

The marines then ran through the port buildings, marking each cleared room
with a red cross on the wall. An Iraqi colonel was captured in one of the
offices and was being questioned.

Dozens of Iraqis are believed to have died during the battle and at least
one marine was shot dead by a sniper during the fight on Friday. At least
450 Iraqis surrendered.

At least 40 Iraqi soldiers were still holding out yesterday in the old part
of the city.


http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=81841

*  IRAQI BODIES LITTER PLAIN
Gulf News, 24th March

Near Najaf, Iraq, Reuters: Burnt out vehicles and incinerated bodies
littered a plain in central Iraq yesterday after U.S. forces overwhelmed
Iraqi militia fighters in a battle south of the holy city of Najaf.

U.S. armoured infantry and tanks took control of the plain in the early
hours yesterday after a battle of more than seven hours against Iraqi forces
who were armed with machineguns mounted on the back of Japanese pick-up
trucks.

Najaf lies just 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

On the main road running across the plain, burnt out Iraqi vehicles were
still smouldering on yesterday afternoon, and charred ribs were the only
recognisable part of three melted bodies in a destroyed car lying in the
roadside dust.

"It wasn't even a fair fight. I don't know why they don't just surrender,"
said Colonel Mark Hildenbrand, commander of the 937th Engineer Group.

"When you're playing soccer at home, 3-2 is a fair score, but here it's more
like 119-0," he said, adding that the Iraqi sport utility vehicles (SUVs)
stood no chance against tanks.

"You can't put an SUV with a machine gun up against an M1 tank - it's
heinous for the SUV," Hildenbrand said.

The fighting began late on Saturday as forces from the U.S. 3rd Infantry
Division pushed on with their swift drive north towards Baghdad.

Iraqi bodies shot as they lay in sniper positions by the side of the road
suggested the militiamen were hoping to ambush U.S. forces moving across the
plain, a strategic area on the west bank of the Euphrates river.

Forward U.S. reconnaissance units took some initial fire from the militia
before armoured infantry, tanks, artillery and combined air support were
called in.


http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3251554&thesection=news&t
hesubsection=world

*  AUSTRALIAN PILOT GIVES THUMBS DOWN TO US BOMBING ORDER
by Greg Ansley
New Zealand Herald, 24th March

CANBERRA - An Australian FA/18 Hornet pilot has refused an American command
to bomb a target in Iraq in the first conflict between the different rules
governing the way the two allies make war.

Although Prime Minister John Howard said the incident during the coalition's
drive towards Baghdad was not evidence of tension between the two commands,
the prospect of a clash of rules was clear from the start.

Australia operates under a tougher set of rules of engagement than the US
because Canberra has ratified more international agreements than Washington.

The refusal of the RAAF pilot to release his precision-guided bombs came as:

 Australian Navy boarding parties captured three Iraqi dhows loaded with 86
mines and a "wide array of military weapons" as their crews tried to slip
through the coalition blockade to seed the top of the Gulf with
sophisticated Manta acoustic and other floating mines.

 SAS soldiers, after a number of firefights over the weekend, called down
an air strike on an Iraqi command and control base suspected of being
involved in the launching of ballistic missiles.

 At home, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied against the war,
despite a poll showing opposition to Australian involvement had
significantly weakened since the conflict started, with opinion now almost
evenly divided.

The decision of the RAAF pilot not to attack an Iraqi target was taken when
his Hornet, armed with a range of strike weapons, was ordered away from the
round-the-clock escort missions the Australians have been flying since war
started.

"However, the crew chose not to complete the mission because they could not
positively identify the target," Defence Force spokesman Brigadier Mike
Hannan said.

"The crew's decision reflects the ADF's strong commitment to the laws of
armed conflict and its support of the Government's targeting policy, right
down to the lowest levels."

The rules under which Australians are fighting in Iraq are governed by
Australian and international law, the 1949 Geneva Convention, and additional
1977 protocols that the US has not signed.

A range of weapons in the American arsenal - such as landmines and cluster
bombs - are banned by Australia, and Canberra has emphasised that its forces
will refuse to attack civilian targets, including key bridges, dams and
other vital infrastructure of the kind bombed by the US in the 1991 Gulf
War.

Australia has also emphasised that its troops remain strictly under national
command, but Brigadier Hannan said the final choice of whether or not to
attack was a decision made by "ordinary young Australians, often in a split
second, that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives".

"The rules are all well and good, and they are important and necessary, but
they are not of themselves sufficient to ensure that the laws of armed
conflict are upheld and targeting policy is implemented."

He said such decisions were made by young pilots flying at very high speed,
often at night.

"In this case the pilot ... decided that the information didn't support the
justification for the use of the weapon and aborted the mission."


http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/World/iraq_safwan030322.html

*  SLOW AID AND OTHER CONCERNS FUEL IRAQI DISCONTENT TOWARD UNITED STATES
by John Donvan
ABC News, 22nd March

S A F W A N, Iraq, March 22  They were unforgettable images: Residents of
this southern Iraqi town openly welcoming coalition forces. They danced in
the streets as a picture of Saddam Hussein was torn down.

That was yesterday.

Traveling unescorted into Safwan today, I got a far different picture.
Rather than affection and appreciation, I saw a lot of hostility toward the
coalition forces, the United States and President Bush.

Some were even directed towards the media. (It was the first time I heard
somebody refer to me as a "Satan.")

To be sure, conversations with people on the street here begin relatively
calmly. But the more they talked, the angrier they got.

In part, much of their discontent stems from the unknown. In speaking with
them, the newly liberated Iraqis ask the same questions that seem to nag
many outside Iraq.

Why are you here in this country? Are you trying to take over? Are you going
to take our country forever? Are the Israelis coming next? Are you here to
steal our oil? When are you going to get out?

But also fueling the simmering animosity among Iraqis here is the lack of
physical aid and comfort, promised by the United States before the conflict
began.

The U.S. military said in press briefings today that supplies of food and
medicine have been stockpiled and will be delivered to the Iraqi people as
soon as possible. But for the residents of Safwan, "soon" isn't soon enough.

We were told that some people here have been wounded. And we saw one man
taken to a car so they could drive him to Kuwait for treatment.

Others told us that three or four people had been wounded during the first
night of the war and people were very bitter about that.

The notion that the military has things under control isn't quite clear in
other aspects as well.

Some very reliable Western journalists I spoke with said they had traveled
down a road that the British military told them was clear. Twenty-minutes
later, they discovered land mines on the highway.

Elsewhere, journalists were running into gunfire. This is all within about 6
miles of the Kuwaiti border.

I couldn't help but feel that today was a dicey day, a very dicey day.


http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=24466
5

*  FACTBOX-LIST OF WAR CASUALTIES
Reuters, 25th March

LONDON (Reuters) - At least 30 Iraqis who may have been on their way to
reinforce the city of Nassiriya were killed on Tuesday in what appeared to
be a bombing raid by U.S.-led forces, a Reuters correspondent says.

Following are the announced casualties to date.

U.S. MILITARY IN COMBAT:

March 20 - U.S. Marine killed in Iraq, first combat death.

March 21 - Second U.S. Marine killed in Iraq.

March 23 - Seven Marines killed in firefight near southern city of
Nassiriya. Iraqi television shows eight U.S. corpses.

March 25 - Pentagon says a Navy corpsman is killed near Nassiriya, puts
total number of confirmed U.S. casualties at 18.

BRITISH MILITARY IN COMBAT:

March 24 - Two soldiers are killed in action near Zubayr in the south of
Iraq, taking to 20 the number of dead and missing British troops.

IRAQI MILITARY IN COMBAT:

March 23 - U.S. military sources say about 70 Iraqis are killed in a battle
south of Najaf.

March 25 - A Reuters correspondent says at least 30 Iraqis who may have been
on their way to reinforce the city of Nassiriya are killed in what appeared
to be a bombing raid by U.S. led forces.

IRAQI CIVILIANS:

March 22 - Iraq says three civilians are killed in overnight air raids, 250
civilians wounded in Baghdad since war started.

March 23 - Iraq says 77 civilians have been killed and 366 injured in Basra.
Iraqi television reports four people killed, 13 wounded in allied air
strikes on Tikrit.

March 24 - Iraq says 62 people were killed by U.S.-led forces in the
previous 24 hours and more than 400 been wounded.

March 25 - At least two Iraqis, apparently civilians, are killed in the
southern city of Nassiriya, Reuters correspondent says. Iraq says U.S. and
British attacks have killed 16 Iraqis and wounded 95 over the past 24 hours.

U.S., BRITISH NON-COMBAT DEATHS:

March 21 - Eight British soldiers from 3 Commando brigade and four U.S.
marines are killed when a U.S. Marine CH-46E helicopter crashes in Kuwait.

March 22 - Two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collide in the northern Gulf.
All seven crew members, including one American, are killed.

March 23 - U.S. Patriot missile brings down a British Tornado jet near the
Kuwaiti border, killing the two crew.

-- In Kuwait, a U.S. Army Captain is killed and 15 servicemen wounded when
grenades are rolled into three tents of the 101st Airborne Division. U.S.
captain is held as a suspect.

-- One U.S. Marine dies, three others are injured in a vehicle accident in
Kuwait.

March 24 - Pentagon says two Marines are killed in accidents. Britain says a
member of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment is shot dead after a riot at Zubayr
near Basra.

JOURNALISTS:

March 22 - Australian cameraman Paul Moran is killed by a car bomb in
northern Iraq blamed by Kurdish officials on militant Islamic group Ansar
al-Islam, which Washington has linked to al Qaeda.

March 22 - Terry Lloyd, a senior journalist from the British Independent
Television News (ITN), is killed after coming under fire on way to Basra.

NON-IRAQIS:

March 20 - Jordanian taxi driver is killed in first U.S. missile strike on
Baghdad.

March 23 - Syria says U.S. and British aircraft bombed a bus carrying Syrian
civilian workers returning home from Iraq, killing five and wounding an
unspecified number.

MISSING:

March 23 - Two ITN journalists are missing after their car comes under fire
near Basra the day before.

March 24 - Two British soldiers are missing after their vehicle is attacked
in southern Iraq.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29004-2003Mar25.html

*  U.S. CAUTIOUS ABOUT PROMOTING UPRISINGS
by Michael Dobbs and Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 26th March

Amid reports of the first popular uprising against Saddam Hussein since U.S.
and British troops invaded Iraq last week, the Bush administration yesterday
urged Iraqi civilians to stay indoors and refrain from attacking until the
allies were in a position to help them.

The advice -- delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and U.S.
commanders in the field -- contrasted sharply with the course pursued by
President George H.W. Bush during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, when
he called on the Iraqi people to "take matters into their own hands."

A subsequent insurrection by Iraqi Shiites and Kurds was put down with great
ferocity and bloodshed by Hussein's Republican Guard as the U.S. forces
stood by, unwilling to intervene. Estimates of those killed ranged between
30,000 and 60,000.

This time around, both the United States and the local Shiite population of
southern Iraq appear to have drawn important lessons from the February 1991
fiasco. Fearing retaliation by paramilitary forces loyal to Hussein and wary
of President George W. Bush's resolve, Iraqi civilians have displayed little
popular enthusiasm for the arrival of U.S. troops. And Washington is
reluctant to endorse a premature popular rebellion that could end in
tragedy.

"I am very careful about encouraging people to rise up," Rumsfeld said
yesterday, as reports came in of a Shiite rebellion in Basra. "We know there
are people in those cities ready to shoot them."

Before the war began, U.S. officials had painted a picture of a repressed
Shiite population eagerly awaiting its hour of deliverance from three
decades of dictatorial rule. As recently as Monday, deputy defense secretary
Paul Wolfowitz predicted "an explosion of joy and relief" as soon as the
people of Basra no longer felt an immediate "threat" from the Hussein
regime.

But the first six days of the war have revealed a political situation in
Iraq that is a lot messier and more complicated than many administration
officials foresaw. Militiamen known as Saddam's Fedayeen are present in
large numbers in Basra and other cities, terrorizing the local population
and preventing U.S. and British forces from taking control. It is also
becoming increasingly clear that among Iraqis, hatred for Hussein does not
necessarily translate into love for America.

"The hawks said from the get-go that you would have Iraqis on the rooftops
cheering the American as liberators. We haven't seen that," said Joseph
Wilson, the last U.S. diplomat to leave Baghdad after the 1990 attack on
Kuwait. "The big question for me is what do Iraqis hate most: Saddam, or the
idea of foreigners invading their country, particularly foreigners blamed by
many Iraqis for the economic devastation of their country?"

In deciding whether to encourage a Shiite uprising during the months leading
up to the invasion, the Bush administration faced a delicate political
dilemma. In military terms, a Shiite rebellion might have been a serious
blow to Hussein. But there were political reasons to be wary of Shiite
opposition groups that are closely allied to neighboring Iran.

The Shiites form half the population of Iraq but have been excluded from
Hussein's Sunni dominated government. They have long looked to Shiite Iran
for political and spiritual leadership. During the insurrection of February
1991, the rebels set up a provisional Islamic government on the Iranian
model; in subsequent years, Teheran has continued to offer dissident Iraqi
Shiites financial support and a place of refuge.

The CIA and U.S. military intelligence also have been in touch with Shiite
representatives, including their Teheran-based leader, Ayatollah Mohammed
Bakr al-Hakim, over the past few years.

Plans for Hussein's overthrow developed during the Clinton administration
envisaged a major role for the exile groups, including the creation of a
haven inside Iraq from which they could foment unrest.

But those plans were radically revised after the Bush administration decided
on a strategy of massive military force, and Al-Hakim recently told an
interviewer that the United States had not shared any plans for Iraq's
future with him.

Spokesmen for Iraqi exile groups complain that the Bush administration has
failed to make full use of their expertise and their network of supporters
inside Iraq. They add that Washington has focused much more attention on
putting out feelers to potential dissidents within the regime than on
encouraging popular uprisings.

"We have had some discussion with U.S. officials about the future of Iraq,
but they never asked us for our help," said Hamid Bayati, London spokesman
for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Shiite
opposition group. "In fact, they ask us to keep our people away from the
streets."

"We have not been involved in the military planning," said Entifadh Qanbar,
Washington representative for the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella
opposition group. "In a liberation war, you need to get the public involved,
and this has not been done in this war. Why not? Ask the Pentagon."

Iraqi exiles yesterday reported fighting in western sections of Basra
between armed Fedayeen and ordinary citizens, sometimes involving
"hand-to-hand combat." The clashes are taking place near the airport, they
said, close to an area occupied by British troops who have been given the
job of occupying Basra, and wiping out remaining Iraqi forces.

U.S. officials and Iraqi exiles say that memories of the failed 1991
uprising in southern Iraq are crucial to understanding the reluctance of
many Shiites to welcome U.S. troops this time around. Despite the words of
encouragement from President George H.W. Bush, the rebels found themselves
fighting alone.

The U.S. military, under the terms of the armistice agreement with Baghdad,
even permitted the Iraqi military to use helicopter gunships against the
rebels, on the pretext that they were being used to transport Iraqi
officials.

"The backing didn't materialize the way they thought it was going to
materialize," recalled Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Hundreds of thousands were killed because they
thought they had a chance for a popular uprising."

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said he was reluctant to urge
an uprising until he knew that British or U.S. troops could deal with
paramilitary forces loyal to Saddam.

"People will rise up," he said. "But I hope and pray they'll do it at a time
when there are sufficient forces nearby to be helpful to them rather than at
a time when it simply costs their life."

Staff writer Peter Slevin contributed to this report.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,922032,00.html

*  US CLAIMS 500 KILLED IN SWEEP PAST NAJAF
by Nicholas Watt and agencies
The Guardian, 26th March

Up to 500 Iraqis have been killed in a two-day sweep past the Shia holy city
of Najaf by the US push to Baghdad 100 miles to the north, American forces
claimed yesterday.

Tanks and mechanised units opened fire when Iraqi tanks and anti-aircraft
weaponry, bolstered by "thousands and thousands" of other weapons, were
turned on the US 3rd Infantry Division.

Command Sergeant Major Kenneth Preston, of V Corps, said US forces opened
fire on meeting "a lot" of resistance near Najaf. He attempted to play down
the Iraqi defences, saying: "This could have been very ugly, but they're not
very motivated. I think a lot of them wanted to go home."

There was no independent confirmation last night of the US claim. Sgt Maj
Preston's pointed remarks on the low morale of the Iraqi troops sat uneasily
next to his claim that they had offered strong resistance.

To compound the confusion, Iraq's information minister claimed that 16
Iraqis had been killed in the 24 hours up to last night. But Mohammed Saeed
al-Sahaf, who is unlikely to have a full picture of what is happening in
Iraq, has been playing down the number of casualties to bolster the morale
of his forces.

While there may be scepticism about the US headline, there is no doubt that
Iraqis have suffered heavy casualties as the US forces thrust towards
Baghdad.

Nassiriya

A Reuters journalist reported that at least 30 Iraqis were killed yesterday
as US marines finally forced their way through Nassiriya after five days of
bloody fighting in the strategically important southern Iraqi city.

As troops struggled to cope with heavy sandstorms, Cobra attack helicopters
are understood to have opened fire on the conscript troops 12 miles north of
the city as they travelled south to relieve Iraqi forces holed up in
Nassiriya since last Thursday. Around 30 dismembered bodies were seen by the
wreckages of two buses. No Iraqi weapons were visible around the wrecked
vehicles. The deaths were believed to be the largest number of casualties of
the war witnessed independently.

Sean Maguire, a Reuters correspondent travelling with US forces, said: "The
blasts were obviously huge. We saw dismembered bodies, headless corpses, and
limbs scattered across the road."

Another group of 25 to 30 prisoners, who apparently survived the blasts,
were seen being led away by US soldiers. Several were wounded and on
stretchers.

"They were all adult males, some of them wearing the black clothes of Iraqi
irregular forces," Maguire said. "There was a large hole in the road and a
[US] military officer said it looked like it was bombed from the air."

The killings came as the US marines finally secured a two-mile corridor
through the city, allowing them to cross the Euphrates river on their push
north towards Baghdad. Under the cover of helicopter rockets and an
artillery barrage, armoured vehicles and other transport crossed the
Euphrates followed by tanks.

The symbolic crossing followed five days of fighting in Nassiriya, which
resumed at first light yesterday. American tanks shattered low-rise brick
homes in the 400,000-strong city with high-explosive shells from close
range, sometimes as little as 100 metres.

Marines took up defensive positions on the low rooftops of the dusty, brick
buildings lining the streets, looking for snipers and, they said, irregular
fighters with rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.

Captain Joe Bevan said that his men fired at a stronghold of 10 to 15
black-clad Iraqi fighters from a range of 300 to 400 metres. Many of the
fighters are believed to be from the Saddam Fedayeen militia loyal to the
Iraqi leader.

Journalists reported seeing two middle-aged civilian men being killed, while
another was wounded. US marines, who first arrived on the outskirts of
Nassiriya on Thursday, are understood to have been surprised by the ferocity
of the Iraqi defence of the mainly Shia city. But the Iraqis were determined
to put up a fight because clearing a route through Nassiriya, which lies 235
miles south of Baghdad, allows the marines to advance north towards Kut, on
the Tigris river.

Once the marines had left Nassiriya, however, they soon came under fire
again on the road north.

"We're getting ambushed up there right now," said Lew Craparotta, commander
of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Infantry Regiment.

Umm Qasr

The fierce fighting in the north came as British and US forces claimed that
Iraqi resistance had finally been overcome in the southern Iraqi port of Umm
Qasr.

Coalition commanders insisted that they had put an end to resistance by
Iraqi gunmen in the old town adjoining the deepwater port of Umm Qasr, which
Britain and the US want to use to unload humanitarian supplies to Iraq.

Their claims may be met with scepticism because both Britain and the US have
repeatedly claimed to have secured control of Umm Qasr, only to suffer a
fresh Iraqi uprising.


http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=390857

*  'DESERT RATS' POISED TO ENTER BASRA
by Donald Macintyre at Central Command, Doha, Qatar
The Independent, 26th March

The British Army is poised to enter the southern Iraqi city of Basra amid
reports that well armed forces loyal to Saddam Hussein were using mortars to
quell a popular uprising.

Overnight, British artillery attacked Iraqi positions in the city, and the
Baath party headquarters in the city was bombed. UK forces also attacked
Iraqi paramilitaries who were said to be fleeing the city.

The troops are preparing an attempt to seize the city in support of the
mainly Shia Muslim population after civilians took to the streets in revolt
against the authorities, reporters embedded with the 7th Armoured Brigade,
the Desert Rats, said.
But Group Captain Al Lockwood, spokesman for the UK forces, said the city
appeared to be calm this morning.

In an important strategic shift, British troops had earlier been engaged in
a series of military operations against pro-Saddam forces close to the city,
the second biggest in Iraq, which faces a mounting humanitarian crisis
compounded by water shortages after Iraqi forces, according to Allied
sources, cut off electric power.

International Red Cross engineers were able to switch the power back on
after British troops cleared "non-friendly" Iraqis from around the switching
station, the officials said.

And in what appeared to be the biggest ground engagement since the war
began, a US military official said up to 300 members of the Iraqi armed
forces were believed to have been killed when they attacked the US 7th
Cavalry near Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad. American television
networks said up to 500 Iraqis may have been killed.

Confirming that there was unrest in Basra, Major-General Peter Wall, a
British officer at US Central Command in Qatar, said: "It is very much in
its infancy and it would be wrong to predict a rapid outcome.

"There are early indications that [a revolt] just might be started and we
will be very keen to capitalise on it. We have a duty to reinforce that, but
we've got to make sure we do that in a sensible way and don't do anything
hotheaded that we might come to regret."

He added that elements of the Iraqi 51st Division - which were said by
Allied forces to have surrendered - had returned to the city, taking up arms
again. He said they may well have been coerced through the "mechanism of
threats against their families".

Senior British officers at Central Command said Allied forces would not
enter Basra until they were clearer about the position on the ground.

Earlier, the British Army said an official of President Saddam's Baath party
was captured by the Desert Rats during a night-time raid on party
headquarters, occupied by armed plainclothes forces, at Zubayr, near Basra.
Twenty Iraqis were killed in the raid. Colonel Chris Vernon, an Army
spokesman, said in Kuwait the official was probably "the senior Baath party
guy" in Basra. The raid was part of a series of operations against elements
of the Fedayeen - President Saddam's "martyrs' brigade -and a group
identified as the Special Security Organisation.

A Black Watch soldier died in a separate incident in Zubayr. A British tank
commander died the previous day in fighting in the same area.

The original strategy had been for British forces merely to "screen" Basra
to allow the Americans to advance northwards round its western flank. But
British military officials acknowledged yesterday that they would launch
attacks on Iraqi military and security elements in the city "as and when the
opportunity arises". Col Vernon said: "We are moving into the outskirts of
Basra, where our attacks will be surgical."

A military source at Central Command claimed the Iraqi fighters in Basra
were few in number but were terrorising civilians in the city. He said
British Army units with experience in Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland
had the expertise to deal with urban operations of this type. Air Marshal
Brian Burridge, the head of British forces in the Gulf, said: "When you go
in and sort out an urban area you are not out to break the china. We want to
win hearts and minds, but we will have to use force."

Col Vernon said forces fighting at Zubayr reported that gunmen had attacked
from behind civilians that "we assume [were] being coerced". He said the 7th
Armoured Brigade had been fired at by irregular forces from behind
civilians. "Clearly we cannot engage the gunmen for risk of causing undue
civilian deaths," he said.

British sources also said 20 Iraqi T-55 tanks had been destroyed in two
separate Iraqi breakouts from the city. The first was defeated by Royal
Horse Artillery. In the second engagement, 3 Commando Brigade was attacked
on the Al-Faw peninsula.

At a news conference in London earlier in the day, Tony Blair said: "Basra
is surrounded and cannot be used as an Iraqi base. But in Basra there are
pockets of Saddam's most fiercely loyal security services who are holding
out. They are contained, but still able to inflict casualties on our troops,
and so we are proceeding with caution."


http://www.thestar.com.my/iraq/story.asp?file=/2003/3/26/iraq/thirst&sec=ira
q

*  IRAQIS STILL WAITING FOR FOOD AND WATER
The Star (Malaysia), 26th March

SOUTH OF NASSIRIYA (Iraq): Days into the US-led war, Iraq's civilians are
still waiting for the food, water and other help Washington and London
promised they would distribute behind their advancing soldiers.

But with unexpectedly tough combat holding up the humanitarian aid convoys,
hope is rapidly turning to anger against the invaders.

"This war has quickly turned us into beggars," an old man who gave his name
as Farak said as he sat on the side of a road in southern Iraq Monday.

In this part of the country, at least, years of UN economic sanctions that
stripped cupboards have now been replaced by a fierce war which is depleting
the few remaining valuable provisions, resulting in a severe penury.

With no running water, electricity, or food, the inhabitants of the desert
south have slipped into despair, no longer believing in the US promises they
would be taken care of. There are no celebrations to greet the Western
troops.

"We've been abandoned to our fate. Nobody has given us anything to eat.
Nobody is providing security. All they do is arrive here, attack Saddam's
forces, then leave," said Hussein Yaber, a 20-year-old shepherd living in a
barn south of Nassiriya.

On Monday, he was forced to buy 300 litres of water because his family had
no more drinking water.

According to the only doctor in Safwan, Ali, basic medicine is urgently
needed, including analgesics, antibiotics, and drugs for gastroenteritis - a
constant health problem because of frequently contaminated drinking water.

The nearest hospital is in Umm Qasrwhere a small group of Iraqi fighters
have been able to hold out and fire shots at coalition soldiers for four
days despite aerial bombings and artillery shelling.

"If the (US and British) soldiers are among us for only a short time, we
could try to respect them. But if they have come to stay, there are going to
be a lot of problems because the United States only wants to destroy Islam,"
affirmed a young Safwan man.

Although Safwan was the first town to fall to the coalition troops without
resistance last Friday, by Monday the British patrols were receiving no
victory signs from the children in street.

Near one of the tanks stationed next to a torn-up portrait of Saddam, a
local man said: "The United States hasn't understood that it's not going to
be able to kill Saddam Hussein with this war. For better or for worse, he
has already become a legend." - AFP


http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L26303657.htm

  Al-Jazeera TV says no signs of Basra uprising
Reuters, 26th March

KUWAIT, March 26 (Reuters) - Al-Jazeera television said on Wednesday there
were no signs of unrest in the southern Iraqi city of Basra despite British
reports that an uprising against President Saddam Hussein may have started
there.

"The streets of Basra are very calm and there are no indications of violence
or riots," Jazeera's Basra correspondent Mohammed al-Abdallah told the
Qatar-based network.

"There are no signs of the reported uprising. All we can hear are distant
explosions in the southeast, and we believe fighting is going on there."

Jazeera is one of few international networks with a correspondent in Basra,
Iraq's second city where British forces on Tuesday attacked specific targets
and captured a top official of Saddam's Baath party.

Later, British chief-of-staff Major General Peter Wall said there were
indications a revolt might be underway in Basra, a Shi'ite Muslim
stronghold.

Reports of unrest first came from British reporters near the city, but these
were denied by Iraq's information minister.

The people of Basra rose up against Saddam's Sunni-dominated government
after the 1991 Gulf War, but their revolt was crushed.




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