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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Key Developments Concerning Iraq
Key Developments Concerning Iraq

The Associated Press


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Gen. Tommy Franks said Saddam Hussein's regime is weakened but still issuing orders to military units which are not always complying. Franks said his forces have captured 3,000 prisoners.

Coalition troops pressed toward Baghdad but many were halted by a sandstorm near the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles to the south.

Troops further south were facing deadly ambushes and discovering that many Iraqi fighters had discarded their uniforms in favor of civilian clothes. In the Rumailah oil fields, five Iraqis in civilian clothes who appeared to be surrendering fired machine guns at British soldiers. U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said seven fires were burning in the field.

In hopes of showing that he remained at the helm, Saddam boasted in a televised speech that "victory will be ours soon." Allied officials said the language was so general that it was unclear when the tape was made.

Iraq claimed to have shot down two U.S. helicopters and taken pilots prisoner, a day after more than 20 Americans were killed or captured. Franks said two pilots were missing, but he dismissed reports the helicopter was downed by "farmers."

Baghdad came under another heavy air attack early Monday but life returned to many streets later in the day, with stores reopening and traffic heavy in some areas. Authorities dug trenches around military offices as smoke from fires set to conceal bombing targets hung over the city.

The northern front appeared to be building, with American planes landing in Kurdish territory and airstrikes pounding positions of an Islamic group with alleged al-Qaida and Baghdad ties. Coalition warplanes bombed military barracks near Kurdish-held Chamchamal, near the oil center of Kirkuk.

A British soldier was killed in combat in southern Iraq, the first such British death since the war began. Sixteen other British servicemen have died, in two helicopter accidents and the downing of a British jet by friendly fire from a U.S. missile battery. Two others were reported missing.

President Bush planned to tell congressional leaders that the war will cost between $70 billion and $80 billion.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned of a humanitarian crisis in Basra, scene of fierce fighting. Annan said "urgent measures" were needed to restore the city's electricity and water supply.

A U.S. missile hit a passenger bus in Iraq that was carrying Syrian civilians fleeing the war, killing five and wounding 10, according to Syria's official news agency.

A U.S. envoy rushed back to Turkey to discuss Turkish plans to send troops into northern Iraq despite Washington's objections. The European Union head office also warned Turkey not to enter northern Iraq, hinting that doing so would damage its chances of joining the 15-nation bloc.

Oil prices surged after the stiffening resistance from Iraqi troops raised fears the war might take longer than anticipated.


photo credit and caption:
Iraqi workers at the information ministry watch Iraqi President Saddam Hussein adress the nation in a speech broadcast on Iraqi television, Monday March 24, 2003. Saddam Hussein said victory was close for the Iraqi people. (AP Photo/Ali Heider)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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