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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. _______________________________________________ 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