March 27 —
American-led forces bombed Iraqi targets and battled troops
across Saddam Hussein's slowly shrinking domain Thursday, battering
the regime's communications and command facilities in Baghdad.
U.S. officials began sending reinforcements to the region and
reported 25 Marines wounded after a friendly fire incident around An
The Iraqi regime breathed defiance even as coalition troops
encircled its capital city. "The enemy must come inside Baghdad, and
that will be its grave," Defense Minister Sultan Mashem Ahmed
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested that U.S. forces
might lay siege to the capital and hope Iraqis rise up against the
Eight days after the launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
President Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
declined to set a timetable for the war. It will last "however long
it takes" to win, he said, thumping the lectern for emphasis.
Both men said the United Nations could help rebuild postwar Iraq,
but sidestepped tricky questions of who would create and run a new
government once Saddam is toppled.
A U.S. B-2 bomber dropped two 4,700-pound, satellite-guided
"bunker busting" bombs on a major communications tower on the east
bank of the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad, U.S. military
officials said. They said the strike was meant to hamper
communications between Saddam's regime and Iraq's military. Air
assaults zeroed in on one of Saddam's presidential compounds in the
heart of the capital.
"Coalition air forces and Tomahawk missiles took out a
communications and command and control facilities in the capital
city during the night," said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens, a spokesman
reading from a bulletin at the command center in Camp As
In the war zone, sandstorms abated and the Americans and British
reported flying 1,500 missions during the day as they exploited
their unchecked air superiority. British forces reported destroying
14 Iraqi tanks near Basra their largest such take since World War
Warplanes bombed positions in northern Iraq near Kurdish-held
areas and hit Republican Guard forces menacing American ground
forces 50 miles south of Baghdad. Thunderous explosions rocked the
capital after nightfall in one of the strongest blasts in days,
filling the sky with flames and thick smoke after one of Saddam's
presidential palaces was hit.
Combat aircraft dropped bombs "just about as fast as we can load
them," said Capt. Thomas A. Parker, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in the
Cargo planes flew military supplies into northern Iraq after
1,000 American airborne troops parachuted in to secure an airfield.
One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said additional
personnel were being flown in, and that an early objective would be
securing the northern oil fields near Kirkuk. Invading forces took
control of southern Iraqi oil fields in the early hours of the
Several miles away, Kurdish militiamen and villagers celebrated
the fall during the day of a hilltop position where Iraqi forces had
menaced civilians for years.
U.S. forces had pounded the northern hills around Chamchamal over
the past several days, and it appeared that the Iraqis abandoned
their checkpoint and bunkers and retreated to the west.
In central Iraq, the first resupply plane landed on a restored
runway at Tallil Airfield hastily renamed "Bush International
Airport" by American forces who had secured it.
Still, Iraqi resistance continued to slow the drive on the
capital and kept American and British forces out of key cities such
as Basra and An Nasiriyah. Its mines kept ships with humanitarian
assistance from unloading their cargo at the southern port city of
After eight days of fighting, Pentagon officials said close to
90,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq, and that an additional 100,000 to
120,000 were on the way. All were part of a military blueprint made
up long ago, officials said, sensitive to criticism that commanders
had underestimated the need for troops to quell
stronger-than-expected resistance or protect long supply lines.
Bush and Blair met as anti-war protests flared anew in the United
States. In New York, hundreds of demonstrators lined three blocks of
Fifth Avenue and dozens more lay down in the street in a "die-in."
At the United Nations, the U.S. ambassador walked out of a debate on
the war after Iraq's ambassador accused the United States of trying
to exterminate the Iraqi people.
One day after Iraq claimed more than a dozen civilians were
injured in a missile strike in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks
said it was possible that an Iraqi missile was responsible. "It may
have been a deliberate attack inside of town," he added.
More than 25 Marines were wounded in fighting near An Nasiriyah,
one of the southern Iraq cities where irregular forces have put up
far more resistance than American military planners expected. U.S.
officials said some or all of them were hurt when one Marine unit
mistakenly fired on another. No deaths were reported and no Marines
were missing from that incident, officials said. Brooks said the
battle lasted 90 minutes, and WTVD-TV of Durham, N.C., which has a
reporter with the Marines in An Nasiriyah, reported the Marines had
been wounded during fierce house-to-house fighting.
To the south, British forces continued efforts to gain control
over Basra, but die-hard defenders of Saddam's regime have held
positions inside the city amid reports of clashes with the local
Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the British defense staff, told
reporters that British forces destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks that tried to
leave the city during the morning. Historians said it was Britain's
biggest such battle since World War II.
Iraqis accused U.S. and British forces of targeting civilians.
They, in turn, were accused of seizing Iraqi children to force their
fathers into battle.
"They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their
morale," Iraqi Health Minister Omeed Medhat Mubarak told reporters.
Officials said about 350 civilians had been killed in the operation,
and more than 3,500 others injured.
|British tank and armored
personnel carrier crews wait on the frontline at Basra, Iraq
Thursday March 27, 2003. British artillery and coalition
aircraft destroyed several Iraqi armored vehicles that
streamed out of the besieged city of Basra overnight, the top
British commander in the Gulf said Thursday. (AP Photo/Dan
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