Sunday, Mar 30, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
Without elaborating on the number of casualties, Victor Renuart, of the U.S. Air Force, who briefed the media here, said that nearly 200 senior Ba'ath party activists belonging to its `planning' cell were inside the building at the time of the raid. British and U.S. officials have accused "death squads" of the Fidayeen units, masterminded by the Ba'ath party for curbing a mass uprising against the regime of the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, in Basra. They have also held the units responsible for the guerilla attacks on advancing U.S. troops and supply columns that have headed in the direction of Baghdad.
In yet another indication that the U.S. forces were being hampered by unconventional warfare, Major General Renuart confirmed that five U.S. troops were killed at a checkpoint near Najaf on account of an Iraqi suicide attack in the last 24 hours. U.S. forces, he said, had also warded off an Iraqi assault mounted by its elite Medina division against the coalition forces around the city of Najaf.
Around 50 Republican guard soldiers were killed in the battle, in which 30 U.S. Apache "tank-busting" helicopters participated.
Anticiapting that the bigger battles for Baghdad may have been postponed, the U.S. and British forces have recorded partial success in consolidating their hold over captured territory in Southern Iraq. The large Basra refinery has been fully `secured', but the British hold over the entire Faw peninsula still appears incomplete. Gen. Renuart acknowledged that it was possible that the Iraqi missile attack on a Kuwaiti shopping centre in the early hours on Saturday might have been launched from the Faw peninsula.
Anticipating fierce combat in the coming days, the coalition leadership has begun to look seriously at ways to deny the Iraqi regime, support from neighbouring Syria and Iran.
Coalition aircraft operating in the Iraqi western desert zone have reportedly hit an oil pipeline that can carry Iraqi oil from the Kirkuk and Mosul fields to Syria's Mediterranean oil terminal of Banias.
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