Battles Intensify to Baghdad

(Updated March 25, 2003)

Baghdad and Mosul were under air attack Monday morning as strategic bombings continue. Ten US soldiers were confirmed killed in the Nasiriya battle, and two British troops are missing. Coalition forces have had some tough fights in Iraq, but coalition forces still made good progress on the ground, air and sea, said Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, deputy commander of the Combined Forces Command.

"United States Marines defeated an enemy attack there while sustaining a number of killed and wounded in the sharpest engagement of the war so far," he said.

Reports indicate that the UK led groups of U.S. and UK Marines secured the crossing of the Euphrates river, destroyed several tanks, some anti-aircraft batteries and some infantry. They are closing in on Baghdad even through a horrible sandstorm and not much sleep.

Coalitions officials said Monday they have information that Saddam had given orders to use chemical or biological weapons against coalition troops once they come within a certain radius of Baghdad. They said the fighting has been fierce and unconventional.

Troops have already discovered weapons that were not declared to the U. N. inspectors in various hiding places including one near a cemetery. Reportedly, an entire MIG was hidden to look like part of a bridge in one find.

General Victor Renuart said Tuesday that Coalition forces destroyed 6 satellite jamming devices, which Iraqi forces were using against American precision guided weapons.

Prisoners of War

The pilots of the downed Apache helicopter were shown Monday on Abu Dhabi television, the Iraqis showed two U.S. with what appeared to be a tiny cup of water. Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga., and Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, Fla. are the latest POWs that the U.S. is determined to set free.

About 3 days into the battle to disarm Saddam and his regime, an Army supply unit took a wrong turn and ended up ambushed by irregular Iraqi forces. Twelve Americans are missing from the unit. Arab satellite television channel al Jazeera broadcast Iraqi television videotape of the captured Americans.

There the Iraqi captors exhibited their barbaric and Nazi-like evil to the world thru t.v. as gruesome video of U.S. soldiers–apparently dead from execution type wounds to their heads, were shown of them on Al Jazeera television with their pants disrespectfully pulled down or unzipped, while laying on the floor in pools of blood.

U.S. and British Officials said that those involved in these atrocities will be prosecuted for war crimes.

The Iraqi captors talked excitedly about the dead POWs and they also displayed five POWs that were interrogated on the video shown–4 men and 1 woman–they appeared to have been beaten and were scared. Out of respect and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, U.S. media has refrained from showing the video, yet Arab television stations have been looping the video.

Saddam’s Fayadeen Terror Group

Central Command in Qatar, said the Iraqi resistance that Coalition forces encountered were the Fayadeen. Known to be a brutal paramilitary group and called Saddam’s ‘thugs’, they generally wear all black, but they have been disguising themselves as innocent civilians and villagers lately.

At one incident a civilian bus filled with people in civilian dress approached Coalition forces and once they were close enough they opened fire.

Centcom said they are "trying to save a doomed regime. We have not seen on the battlefield a single coherent military move. These moves are dangerous to the troops in the field, but they are not dangerous to the mission."

Army Brig Gen. Vince Brooks, deputy operations officer for U.S. Central Command, noted several incidents of Iraqi ruses during the day. In one incident, Iraqi soldiers displayed a white flag followed by artillery fire. In another, Iraqi soldiers dressed as civilians ambushed coalition forces. "None (of the ruses) pose a danger to the mission," Brooks said.

Abizaid pointed out coalition operations around Iraq continue to put pressure on Hussein’s regime. Air strikes keep hammering Iraqi command and control nodes and communications facilities. In the north, coalition aircraft and special operations personnel are targeting the Republican Guard.

"In and around Baghdad, we continue our air and special operations activities with good success," he said.

In the south, aircraft are providing close-air support to coalition land forces. Coalition forces have captured more than 2,000 Iraqi prisoners. Abizaid said the reason coalition units haven’t seen mass numbers of surrenders as they did in 1991 is because Iraqi troops are not trapped as they were in Kuwait in 1991. Still, they are voting with their feet.

"Here in the areas where we’ve been encountering regular Iraqi forces, by far the majority of the units have just melted away," he said. "We find substantial amounts of abandoned equipment on the field and in the regular army there is clearly very, very little will to fight."

Disrupting Terror Networks in Iraq

At a Centcom briefing this week, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks showed slides that demonstrated the great care given to protect Iraqi civilians and destroy ‘only’ selected Saddam regime targets. Slides showed the successful destruction of one building while leaving the others around it standing. The building housing the Iraqi intelligence service arm that ties to terrorism throughout the world was one of the buildings destroyed with precision guided weapons. Brooks said one can see "again, the surrounding area is intact, and only those buildings that were targeted have been destroyed."

The Iraqi intelligence service is known to have helped Mohammad Atta with the 9-11 terror attacks.

Operation Iraqi Freedom "is all a part of the war on terrorism," said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

The United States wouldn’t be risking service members’ lives in Iraq today, Wolfowitz pointed out, solely because Saddam Hussein is a dictator.

"He is a tyrant, but more importantly, he’s a tyrant who threatens us by his connections to terrorism and his weapons of mass destruction," Wolfowitz remarked during an interview with American Forces Radio and Television Service.

Wolfowitz noted that "quite a few terrorists died" during March 21 strikes against a terrorist complex located in northern Iraq.

And American and coalition forces "are still chasing terrorists in Afghanistan (and) we’re still finding evidence in Pakistan or in the Philippines that’s leading us to terrorists who are planning attacks against the United States," he pointed out.

"This is a global war," Wolfowitz emphasized, that is "going to go on for some time."

Anti-terrorism forces are conducting a variety of valuable tasks, he noted, whether on the front lines in Iraq, in the mountains of Afghanistan, performing civil actions in the Philippines, or somewhere in the United States examining complex collected intelligence.

"It’s all part of a single effort that’s really government- wide," Wolfowitz pointed out, noting that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have achieved "great successes" against terrorists.

"But a lot of those successes would not have been possible without the work that the military is doing," he declared.

Wolfowitz assured those service members engaged in activities outside Iraq that their efforts are also being observed — and appreciated.

Abizaid said of the Coalition forces and the Operation, "We are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in a combined and a joint team that is one of the most integrated and well- trained forces ever put together. There won’t be anything that stops us on the battlefield."


AFPS sources contributed to this story

WMDs Possibly Found at Hidden Facility
Weapons of Mass Destruction appear to have been discovered 90 miles south of Baghdad in Najaf. Camouflaged and booby trapped, the facility reportedly looked like a gigantic sand dune. The U.N. inspectors had been to the area and found nothing, yet the seemingly normal feature in the desert sand was a large chemical production facility. Now secured by the US military, a General in charge of the factory was arrested by 1st Brigade of Third infantry Division and is being questioned. The investigation on the site suspected of weapons production is still ongoing.