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(AFX-Focus) 2003-03-25 18:53 GMT: IRAQ WAR US drops large bombs on Basra; Iraq claims it downed a drone

BASRA (AFX) - A US warplane dropped 1,000-pound satellite-guided J-Dam bombs on military sites hidden in civilian buildings in Basra as British forces battled to take control of the city, British officers reported.

They said the bombs, released by a US F-18 Super Hornet warplane, targeted a large ammunition dump containing weapons, shells and other munitions, as well as a building thought to be used by Iraqi fighters still defending Iraq's second-largest city.

The decision to drop J-Dams marked an escalation of the assault on Basra, British military analysts said.

British commanders attempting to secure the city had previously refrained from ordering attacks directly into Basra to avoid alienating its large Shia Muslim population, which rose up against Saddam in 1991 and is believed to be broadly hostile to the Iraqi leader.

Separately Iraqi satellite television reported that Iraqi forces shot down an unmanned US spy plane over Basra Tuesday.

It showed pictures of a drone on the ground surrounded by dozens of Iraqis.

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