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Sunday, 23 March 2003
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23 Mar 2003 13:17
Iraq - Snapshot of the war - 1317 GMT


* U.S. troops meet resistance on way towards Baghdad as bombs, missiles pound Saddam's capital for fourth day

* Huge blasts rock Baghdad in fresh daylight raid as planes hit single target with at least seven huge bombs

* Iraqi, U.S. forces clash near central holy city of Najaf; U.S., British use tanks, aircraft to try to end standoff in southern city of Umm Qasr; U.S., British forces say they have defeated Iraqi forces in Basra outskirts

* Iraqi troops fire at unidentified targets in Baghdad river after reports U.S. or British pilots may have ejected; U.S. says no reports Western pilots had bailed out over Baghdad

* Iraqi TV shows Saddam in meeting with senior military officers; not clear when, where meeting took place


U.S. Air Force Major-General Daniel Leaf: "It's going more rapidly than I expected. We're making very, very rapid progress."

Iraqi Foreign Minister on reports Iraqi leaders have been killed: "These are fables launched by American and Zionist (TV) stations and repeated by some media published in Arabic."

U.S. defence official on reports Western pilots were ejected from aircraft over Baghdad: "We have no reports of that. I haven't seen anything on that."


BAGHDAD: Waves of bombs and missiles pound Baghdad for a fourth day. Power was briefly knocked out. Iraqi forces set oil-filled trenches ablaze around the capital in an apparent bid to create a smokescreen.

CENTRAL IRAQ: Ground forces approached Najaf, 100 miles (160 km) south of Baghdad. Speeding columns of the U.S. Third Infantry have covered nearly two thirds of the 500 km (300 miles) from the Kuwaiti border in two days before running into Iraqi resistance near Najaf on the southwest bank of the Euphrates.

U.S. commanders believe the Medina Division of Saddam's Republican Guard, better equipped than the regular army, is holding Najaf.

SOUTHERN IRAQ: U.S. and British tank units advanced on the southern city of Basra on Sunday, where Iraqi forces fought back to keep them out of the city. Iraq says 77 civilians have been killed in Basra, most of them with cluster bombs.

Fighting on the outskirts of the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya has blocked an advance by U.S. forces there.

Earlier, Marines had reported seizing control of bridgeheads on the north bank of the Euphrates river, positioning them to strike further in the direction of Baghdad.

U.S. and Iraqi forces battled in the southern Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr on Sunday, with tanks and aircraft attacking targets where at least 120 Iraqi Republican Guards were reported to be dug in.

Britain says a Royal Air Force plane that went missing near the Kuwait border was likely shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile.

NORTHERN IRAQ: In what appeared to be air strikes on Iraqi frontline troops, Mosul, near the frontline with Kurdish-held northern Iraq, came under attack from the air on Sunday.

An Iraqi Kurdish group running part of northern Iraq said U.S. forces launched second day of missile strikes there against Ansar al-Islam positions near the Iranian border. The Islamist group is accused by Washington of links to al Qaeda.

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