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Iraqi general captured, colonel killed in Basra; 15 US soldiers hurt in Kuwait

rediff Newsdesk | March 30, 2003 23:18 IST

British commandos have captured an Iraqi general and four other senior officials in an attack on a village on the outskirts of Basra, according to a British military official

A Republican Guard colonel has also been killed in village Abu al-Qassib, he said.

The commandos have now reached the centre of the village and fighting is on.

According to BBC, in addition to the senior officials, 30 Iraqi soldiers have died and 30 captured in the attack.

"They are these illegal criminal elements who have decided they have no future in Iraq," BBC quoted British military spokesman, Group Captain Al Lockwood, as saying.

In the Rumaila oil fields, British forces have captured another Ba'ath party official, the channel said.

British Foreign Office junior minister Mike O'Brien told BBC: "We are now reshaping the battlefield for the next stage and things are indeed pretty much where we expected at this stage of the proceedings.

"We had a very clear view about what we intended to do. There was a clear strategy set out and we are still following that strategy."

At the US Central Command in Doha, Qatar, the commander of the coalition forces, General Tommy Franks rejected reports that his forces have engaged in an "operational pause" near the gates of Baghdad. He said coalition troops have moved to within 60miles of the Iraqi capital on several fronts.

"The air force has worked 24 hours a day across every square foot of Iraq, and every day the regime loses more of its military capability.

"We're, in fact, on plan. And where we stand today is not, in my view, only acceptable, but truly remarkable," he said.

But the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Richard Myers, told BBC in an interview that the toughest part is yet to come.

"I'm not going to make a prediction in terms of how long this conflict will last," he said.

Regarding the threats of suicide attack on coalition troops, Gen Myers said: "I think we can adjust our tactics and techniques to overcome that."

In Kuwait City, at least 15 US soldiers were hurt when a civilian truck drove into a line of soldiers outside Camp Udairi, CNN reported.

Military police fired on the vehicle but the fate of the driver is not known.

Gen Franks said the matter is being investigated.

Meanwhile, reports said Baghdad is now under round-the-clock bombing, with apparently heavier and heavier munitions.

Massive explosions have been heard from the south of Baghdad, where US forces are trying to displace units of the Republican Guard. One of the missiles has hit a residential area. It is not clear if anyone has died.

A training site for fidayeen paramilitaries loyal to President Saddam Hussein has been hit. A palace belonging to his son, Qasay, has also been targeted, BBC said.

Al-Jazeera has also reported fresh air strikes on the northern town of Mosul and Kalak.

At least four bombs blasted an Iraqi-held ridge in Kalak in less than two hours, CNN said.

Al-Jazeera also reported that an unknown number of Syrians have arrived in Mosul to carry out suicide attacks against the coalition forces.

It showed pictures of them brandishing weapons and portraits of Saddam.

"Come to the land of the Arabs in Iraq and fight for Islam with your souls," one of them shouted. "You talk of missiles, tanks and bombs but it is our faith that will challenge the unbelievers."

Another journalist has died reporting from Iraq. Channel 4 foreign affairs correspondent Gaby Rado apparently fell from the roof of the Abu Sanaa hotel at Suleimaniya, northern Iraq, into the car park.

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