Wednesday, April 2, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Allies kill 11 unarmed Iraqi civilians
Baghdad bombing on; street fights with loyal militia
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

A child sitting on his father’s shoulders fights for a box of food
A child sitting on his father’s shoulders fights for a box of food as people rush to grab food package handed out by the British Tactical Supply Wing from the back of a lorry in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan on Sunday. — Reuters photo

Kuwait City, April 1
The Operation Iraqi Freedom took an ugly turn today when jittery American soldiers killed at least 11 civilians, including seven women and children, at checkpoints in two separate incidents.

On the battle front, the coalition forces continued with their severe bombing of Baghdad, fierce ground battles in southern and central Iraq, while for the first time street-to-street fights with President Saddam Hussein’s loyal militias were reported from towns close to Baghdad. Officials here also spoke of significant redeployment of the elite Republican Guard troops to bolster the Iraqi resistance in central Iraq.

The US efforts to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis received a huge setback today when they killed 11 unarmed civilians at military checkpoints in two separate incidents today.

A car crammed with 13 women and children was sprayed with bullets on the highway between Karbala and Najf when the driver approached a military checkpoint near Najf at speed, ignoring warning shots. Ten women and children died in the incident.

Another similar incident took place in Shatra, central Iraq, when an unarmed Iraqi man was killed while his co-passenger was injured. In both incidents, the American troops, manning the checkpoints, retaliated with massive firing when the drivers ignored warning shots. The American troops are under instructions to deal with any approaching civilian vehicle at checkpoints with extreme caution after four US soldiers were killed in Najf when a suicide bomber taxi driver waved for help and detonated his explosive-laden vehicle when the troops walked up to him.

The aerial strafing of Baghdad continued today with the same intensity. The Old Palace Presidential compound, office of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee (where President’s son Uday is believed to be running a torture centre), and President Hussein’s main palace on the banks of Tigris were targeted today, officials said.

It is believed that much of Baghdad’s air defence has gone with the allies’ relentless air campaign. This would definitely enable the allies to fly their planes at a much lower altitude at attack positions of Republican Guard troops more effectively.

The allies’ ground operations continued in central and southern Iraq today. In Najf, the powerful militia, Saddam Fidayeen, gave stiff resistance and attacked the allies’ positions with rocket propelled grenades, mortars and automatic weapons. They had reportedly taken shelter in the Tomb of Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed.

Over 8,000 precision guided missiles and bombs have been dropped on Iraq by the coalition forces. Of these, some 3,000 bombs and missiles have been dropped on Iraq in just the past three days, targeting mainly the Republican Guard units.

In another development, the Iraqis are said to have ordered a massive redeployment of their most lethal weapon — the Republican Guard troops. They are being shifted to south and south-east of Baghdad to reinforce the existing troops there and slow the allies’ advance towards Baghdad.

The Republican Guard has six divisions, including an armoured division. Four of its divisions — named Nebuchadnezzar, Baghdad, Al Nida and Hammurabi — have 10,000 troops each while the Medina Division has 20,000 soldiers. Medina division, equipped with over 200 Russian T-72 tanks, is the most formidable of all Guard divisions.


US warplane attacks 2 buses of Americans

Baghdad, April 1
A US warplane attacked two buses bringing American and European peace activists to Baghdad from neighbouring Jordan, Iraq said today. Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a news conference that the injured were being treated in a hospital near the Jordanian border. He gave no more details of casualties.

“Yesterday, an America warplane attacked two buses on the highway between Amman and Baghdad with foreign passengers, among them Americans,” Mr Sahaf said, adding that some Europeans were also on board.

“These were human shields who were coming to Baghdad to be deployed... many of them were injured and taken to a hospital at Rutba,” he said, adding: “The brave Americans start shooting Americans.” Reuters



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