— By Jon Hemming
NEAR DOHUK, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. B-52 planes bombed the Iraqi
front line between the town of Dohuk and the city of Mosul in the
north of the country on Wednesday.
The United States has been targeting Mosul and the northern oil
hub of Kirkuk with air assaults in recent days as Washington slowly
moves troops into the region to open a new front in its ground war
on Iraq, which has been waged mainly from the south via Kuwait.
This correspondent saw the Americans make at least three sorties,
dropping about half a dozen bombs each time. Plumes of smoke
billowed above the horizon in the direction of Mosul.
More B-52s passed overhead during the late morning.
"There has been very heavy bombing here today," Kurdish tribal
leader Farhan Sharafani told Reuters by satellite telephone from a
location northeast of Mosul.
A bomb later hit a road just inside Kurdish-held territory by
mistake, narrowly missing a passing car, residents said. It left a
crater two meters wide and one meter deep. Kurdish villagers
gathered excitedly around the pit.
Among Wednesday's bombing targets, residents said, was a military
compound used by members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Baath
party in the village of Domiz, north of Mosul.
They said there did not appear to be any Saddam loyalists left in
Domiz, which witnesses said was hit by cluster bombs.
Sharafani also said Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters had seized some
territory overnight, including a bridge and two villages near the
town of Bardarash, which is northeast of Mosul.
He said they captured 40 Iraqi soldiers and two officers. Two
peshmerga fighters were killed in the clash, he added.
In a separate development, this correspondent saw a convoy of
about 25 Turkish-registered trucks heading south along the road
toward Dohuk on Wednesday morning with a U.S. military escort.
The Iraq-Turkey border has been closed since before the United
States and Britain launched their war to topple Saddam on March
A U.S. soldier accompanying the convoy declined to say what the
trucks were carrying or where they were headed.
The United States has deployed a small number of troops in
northern Iraq to operate alongside the Kurdish fighters opposed to
Last month, in a big setback for Washington, Ankara's parliament
denied permission for up to 62,000 U.S. troops to use Turkish
territory to open a northern front against Iraq.
Ankara has reserved the right to bolster its own small military
presence in northern Iraq if it sees a danger of the Kurds
establishing an independent state that, it believes, would rekindle
armed Kurdish separatism in Turkey's southeast.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was visiting Ankara on Wednesday
to seek Turkey's agreement not to send a large force into Iraq for
fear it could undermine the U.S.-led war.
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