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US, British forces enter Iraq
rediff Newsdesk |
March 21, 2003 07:09 IST
Allied aircraft bombed Baghdad and United States and British forces moved into Iraq from the southeastern border with Kuwait on Thursday.
Early Friday, Iraqi officials told state television that "enemy forces have tried to violate" their borders in the south and east.
Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron of the 7th US Cavalry Regiment, lead element of the 3rd Infantry Division, clashed with Iraqi troops across the Kuwaiti border on Thursday night, CNN reported.
Army sources told CNN that the US troops had destroyed a number of Iraqi military vehicles.
Kiowa scout helicopters, flying less than 50 feet above the ground, led a convoy of Bradley fighting vehicles and M-1A1 Abrams tanks, CNN said.
The coalition forces began crossing into Iraq at 2000 hrs [local time]. Among the first were those from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
The Marines encountered two Iraqi armoured personnel carriers and destroyed them.
British troops moved into the Al Faw Peninsula of southern Iraq but had not yet captured Umm Qasr town, a British military spokesman told CNN. The Kuwaiti media had reported that Umm Qasr had fallen.
The Al Faw Peninsula is home to a significant portion of Iraq's oil industry.
US officials said about 20 cruise missiles were launched in the most recent attacks from ships and submarines in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and, for the first time, from two British submarines.
In all, more than 100 cruise missiles were fired at targets in and around Baghdad since hostilities began, BBC reported.
In the capital, fires, which broke out due to the bombing, destroyed at least two buildings, including the government facility containing the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
The Iraqi television early Friday said the targets hit by coalition forces included a military site in Basra, near the Kuwaiti border, and another target in Akashat, a town near the Syrian border. It said four Iraqi soldiers were killed.
In Washington, President George W Bush met his cabinet on Thursday to review the situation. Bush said the "coalition of the willing" had grown to more than 40 countries. But it mostly comprises smaller countries like Colombia and Ethiopia that cannot make any real contribution to the war effort.
An Iraqi blogger on the Internet wrote that the bombing was coming and going in waves, but was nothing yet compared to what they experienced in 1991. He also reported that all radio and television stations were functioning, but none of them even bothered to report the raids, playing patriotic songs most of the time.
- Bush issued an executive order "confiscating non-diplomatic Iraqi government assets that are held in the United States". The order also authorised the US Treasury "to marshal the assets and to use the funds for the benefit and the welfare of the Iraqi people".
- The Bush administration will ask nations around the world to close Iraqi embassies in anticipation of the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, US officials said.
- The FBI agents are on the trail of Iraqis in the US, seeking information about terrorist attacks that Baghdad might contemplate. "We are running down every lead, responding to every threat, coordinating with every partner, and doing our utmost to keep terrorists from striking back," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in a statement.
- Turkey and Cyprus allowed the US to use their airspaces to launch attacks on Iraq.
- Iraq fired at least 10 missiles into northern Kuwait, two of which US Patriot missiles intercepted, according to BBC.
- "I have seen indications and reports from people that the Iraqi regime may have set fire to as many as three or four of the oil wells in the south," Donald Rumsfeld said.
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged combatants to "do everything in their power to shield the civilian population from the grim consequences of war".
- A Special Forces helicopter crashed in the southern Iraqi "no-fly" zone before the attack began, Pentagon said. No one on board was injured, CNN said.