Tough Fight on Four Fronts
The continued Iraqi resistance has cast doubt on the efficacy of the massive psychological campaign waged in advance of the attack. Pockets of Iraqi guerrilla fighters have surfaced in other areas of southern Iraq taken by US and British forces since an invasion from Kuwait four days ago. "People thought the Iraqis would be waving little American flags like it was occupied France in the Second World War. This is not an occupied country. It is Iraq and it is run by Iraqis, and for better or worse they are not welcoming Americans as liberators."
Allies face tough fight on four fronts
BY IAN SWANSON
ALLIED troops were today facing stiff resistance on four fronts amid signs the war could drag on longer than expected.
US-led forces suffered the heaviest casualties so far with a fierce fightback by Iraqi units at Basra, Nassiriya, Najaf and Umm Qasr.
US Marines were still bogged down outside Nassiriya today after Iraqi forces ambushed them yesterday at a key Euphrates River crossing on the march toward Baghdad.
An estimated 16 Americans were killed and at least five captured in two clashes that resulted in the largest number of casualties of the four-day-old campaign.
Nasiriyah, 100 miles northwest of the Kuwaiti border, is seen as the key to opening up a second route north to the capital Baghdad.
As many as nine US Marines were also killed inside the city after an Iraqi surrender turned out to be a "ruse".
A small group of soldiers indicated they wanted to give themselves up, but then fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the marines' amphibious assault vehicle, witnesses told journalists travelling with the unit.
Today Reuters correspondent Sean Maguire said the Marines he was travelling with were stuck and had to decide whether to fight through to Nassiriyaâ??s bridges over the Euphrates river about 225 miles southeast of Baghdad, or go around the city.
"We can see Nassiriya but we're not moving. Commanders fairly high up the chain are deciding what we should do," Maguire said. "The whole regiment we're travelling with is just stuck here."
In a TV address today, Saddam claimed the US-led campaign was meeting heavy resistance.
Royal Marines assaulting the Al Faw peninsula
"They came to take your land. But they are in trouble in our land leaving the desert behind them and the people of Iraq blockading them and turning their fire on them." Nasiriyah was a hotbed of rebellion against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the Shiite Muslim rebellion that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Americans may have run into Saddam loyalists based there to keep a lid on the Shiites, along with some Republican Guard units.
In southern Iraq, US and British tank units advancing on Basra said the city was not yet secured.
A tank and artillery battle raged on the outskirts of the city and the Iraqis claimed US and British airstrikes had killed 77 people and wounded 366.
Fierce fighting was continuing at Umm Qasr, where US-led tanks, ground-attack jets, artillery and infantry fail to dislodge more than 120 Iraqi Republican Guards.
Iraqi defenders were reported fighting street battles with allied troops.
The resistance in Umm Qasr should be an "example" to the invading force, said Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, the Iraqi information minister.
President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair said the war was progressing well, despite the casualties and setbacks.
But the resistance which the allied troops are now meeting could mean that the war with Iraq will not be the short, sharp affair which many experts had predicted.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf claimed: "We have drawn them into a swamp and they will never get out of it."
The continued Iraqi resistance has cast doubt on the efficacy of the massive psychological campaign waged in advance of the attack.
Over the last six months, US aircraft dropped more than 25 million leaflets on Iraqi military units and civilians, urging them not to fight the US invasion.
That was supplemented by propaganda radio broadcasts and telephone calls to unit commanders inviting them to negotiate their capitulations. There was speculation the lack of large-scale surrenders showed Iraqi commanders may have been manipulating the expectations of their American contacts.
US officials insisted their advance on Baghdad had not been slowed - though they refused to say when they would get there. "We'll arrive in the vicinity of Baghdad soon and I prefer to leave it at that," said one US officer.
Navy warships deployed in the eastern Mediterranean fired dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Iraq yesterday for the first time since the war's start.
And today Mosul in northern Iraq came under bombardment. The city, 240 miles north of Baghdad, has been struck with repeated air raids since US-led forces began the war on Thursday.
Several minutes of explosions were reportedly heard shortly before 8am local time, 30 miles north of Mosul. Arabic-language al-Jazeera satellite television broadcast live pictures of the attack, showing smoke rising in the distant town and the sound of about ten large explosions.
The al-Jazeera reporter said missiles appeared to be hitting west of Mosul, in the direction of the Syrian border, although he was not sure if they were striking civilian or military targets. He said he could not hear Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.
In the early hours of yesterday, Iraq fired a missile into northern Kuwait, but it was destroyed by a Patriot missile, the Kuwaiti military said.
In the north, airstrikes were reported against strongholds of Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with alleged ties to al-Qaida and Baghdad.
Bursts of anti-aircraft fire were heard from the direction of Mosul, and Iraqi television reported that Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, had been bombed several times.
Authorities said the number of Iraqi prisoners in allied custody was about 2000. About 200 were being held at the Tillil Air Base, a dilapidated complex near An Nasiriyah.
Yesterday also saw a British war plane downed by American "friendly fire", with two Britons dead. A deadly grenade attack on a US compound in Kuwait was blamed on an American soldier with "an attitude problem".
And ITV News confirmed their veteran war correspondent Terry Lloyd had been killed in southern Iraq.
Some US officials led people to expect a quick campaign with precision munitions, retired CIA counter-terrorism official Vincent Cannistraro said.
"People thought the Iraqis would be waving little American flags like it was occupied France in the Second World War," he said. "This is not an occupied country. It is Iraq and it is run by Iraqis, and for better or worse they are not welcoming Americans as liberators. No one is welcoming the Americans until Saddam's body is on the ground and people can go over and kick it," Cannistraro added.
Skirmishes continued overnight in the farmlands outside the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.
Part of the 3rd Infantry Division reached the area yesterday after a 230 mile, 40-hour sprint through the desert, killing 100 machine gun-toting militiamen along the way.
When more than 30 Iraqi armoured vehicles were spotted heading towards the 2nd Brigade's positions, A-10 and B-52 war planes were called in to hammer the Iraqis.
Small groups of Iraqi fighters approached US positions in pick-up trucks or on foot, but were driven back by tank and artillery fire.
UK forces pass a flaming wellhead in the south
When Iraqis fired rockets from Najaf at the Americans, the US troops responded with heavy fire into the city. And armed Iraqis surfaced in Iraq's southern Rumaylah oilfields today forcing the US military to declare it a no-go zone.
But US and British troops appear to be in no danger of losing their grip on the vital southern oil fields, secured in the early hours of their assault on the major oil producer.
"As I understand it, there are still bad guys with guns. It is a war zone," US military spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Cassidy.
"They won't be able to destroy the wells," she stressed.
Pockets of Iraqi guerrilla fighters have surfaced in other areas of southern Iraq taken by US and British forces since an invasion from Kuwait four days ago.
The US military says an unknown number of wellheads and plants to separate gas from oil at Rumaylah, capable of pumping up to one million barrels per day, may be booby trapped.
While only seven of Rumaylah's 500 wells are ablaze, two have sustained significant damage, the US military said.
Sabotage of Iraq's oil infrastructure by loyalists to Saddam Hussein is the worst nightmare of Washington, which has vowed to secure the country's oil wealth for Iraq's citizens.
First news that the southern oilfields were not fully safe for travel came when the US military abruptly cancelled a planned trip to the area for journalists.
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