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US WAR/Basra under heavy air raids

 halamche, Khuzestan Prov, March 22, IRNA -- The second largest Iraqi  
city, Basra Port, was under heavy air raids of the US-British forces  
at 10 pm, Friday night.                                               
    According to IRNA correspondent in Shalamche region, gigantic US  
B52 bombers that were seen flying at a low altitude aimed at targets  
in the suburbs of Basra.                                              
    An Iranian military official told IRNA at zero point of the       
Iran-Iraq border, "the US fighters and bombers attack against Basra   
has been quite heavy and dreadful and it is still going on as you     
notice (at 11:12 pm)."                                                
  The roaring of the jet engines of the US and British fighters flying
towards Basra to bomb the Iraqi army's positions there were also heard
in Iran's Abadan and Khorramshahr cities, further south on the border 
line of Iran and Iraq.                                                
    Meanwhile, Kuwait TV, monitored here, announced a few minutes ago 
that the US-British forces' heavy air raids against numerous Iraqi    
targets will start tonight ( Friday night).                           
    Quoting the British forces' commander in Kuwait, the Kuwait TV    
said, "the coalition forces have reached the gates if Basra now."     
    The Iranian military commanders in Shalamche, too, told IRNA that 
since the bombardments' sound and the sound of the firing of the Iraqi
land-to-land cannons are heard simultaneously from the Basra region,  
the US-British forces must be approaching Basra while their fighters  
are bombing the city.                                                 
    They added, "capturing the Nasseriyyeh Air Base in the north of   
Basra will be the next objective of the coalition forces following    
the fall of Basra."                                                   
    According to a separate report, the intelligence headquarters,    
and the governorate buildings of Basra were totally demolished during 
the Friday bombardments of Basra by the coalition forces.             
    British troops on southern Iraq's Faw peninsula are heading for   
the port of Basra to open a supply channel for humanitarian aid into  
the country, a British forces spokesman said on Friday.               
    "Obviously we will attempt to secure the peninsula and the        
objective eventually will be to secure Basra, the port in particular, 
so we can start the flow of humanitarian aid into the country," Group 
Captain Al Lockwood said in Qatar.                                    
    Royal Marine commandos opened their ground war on Iraq before dawn
on Friday with an airborne and seaborne assault on the coast around   
the Faw peninsula to secure Iraq's main oil pipeline terminals.       
    "They captured the essential oilheads and pumping stations that   
supply the oil to be offloaded into the north Persian Gulf," Lockwood 
told Reuters in an interview.                                         
    "By doing this we have managed to stop the threat of pollution to 
the north... Persian Gulf."                                           
    "We have our mine counter-measure vessels on standby to sweep the 
al-Faw peninsula, to look for mines. We need to establish and open    
that seaway through to the port of Basra as quickly as possible."     
NA/AR                                                                 
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last Update Friday, 21-Mar-2003 14:02:43 PST
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