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March 31, 2003
 
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Iraq Reports Fierce Fighting at Nassiriya

Reuters


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March 31

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq said its troops were battling U.S.-led invasion forces inside Nassiriya and on the city outskirts on Tuesday, inflicting heavy casualties.

An Iraqi military spokesman speaking on television at almost 2 a.m. local time stressed the fighting was still going on.

"The blood of the enemy is flowing profusely," said the unidentified spokesman. "God bless your hands. Victory will be yours. God is by your side."

Reading a statement, he said that over the past 24 hours Iraqi forces had killed at least 60 U.S. and British troops, destroyed more than 35 vehicles and downed over five enemy aircraft in battles and ambushes throughout Iraq.

The U.S. and British military put their casualties at 46 U.S. killed and 17 missing, and 25 British dead, since the war began on March 20.

The Iraqi forces fighting in and around Nassiriya included members of the elite Republican Guard, regular army troops, Arab volunteers, ordinary people and Baath Party militia, he said.

Nassiriya, which lies some 235 miles southeast of the capital Baghdad, has been the scene of heavy fighting during the past week.

President Saddam Hussein had awarded compensation to families of slain members of the 11th Brigade fighting in Nassiriya, the spokesman said, quoting a presidential decree. He put the compensation at about $650 per family.

U.S. Marines fought their way across the city's bridges last Tuesday but did not take control of the city from mainly paramilitary fighters. Since then, Iraqi forces have carried out several ambushes in the area.

The Iraqi spokesman also said U.S. forces had launched an attack on Najaf in the past few hours. Fighters inside the city, some 100 miles south of Baghdad, had forced them to retreat after suffering heavy losses, he said.

Saddam had awarded medals to some Iraqi commanders on the battlefield and others posthumously to several troops who had died in combat, according to presidential decrees read out television.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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