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8,700 bombs, missiles launched at Iraq: US

More than 8,700 bombs and missiles have been launched by US-led forces in the war on Iraq, the Pentagon said.

world Updated: Apr 01, 2003 03:03 IST

More than 8,700 bombs and missiles have been launched by US-led forces in the war on Iraq, the Pentagon said on Monday, including escalating strikes against Republican Guard divisions protecting Baghdad.

"We are seeing significant degradation of those forces" arrayed around the Iraqi capital, said Army Maj Gen Stanley McChrystal, adding that 3,000 precision-guided bombs alone had been dropped since Friday in the air and ground assault that began nearly two weeks ago.

"We are seeing some movement in the Republican Guard formations as well. What we think we see them do is move to reinforce," he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

In Qatar, a US military official said there had been some fighting between US ground troops moving within 80 km south of Baghdad and the Republican Guards. But that official and McChrystal declined to be more specific.

"We flew about a thousand sorties over Iraq yesterday, mostly against the Medina, Hammurabi, Baghdad and al Nida divisions" of the Republican Guard, the general told reporters in Washington.

He said US warships had fired more than 700 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles and Western jets had dropped more than 8,000 precision-guided munitions since "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to depose Iraq's President Saddam Hussein began.

But McChrystal, deputy director of operations on the U.S. military's Joint Staff, also told a briefing that more than 100,000 American and British troops on the ground in Iraq had not yet found any chemical or biological weapons.

The Bush administration has repeatedly accused the Iraqi government of holding stockpiles of the deadly arms, an accusation denied by Baghdad.

"We still believe very strongly that the regime has the capability and potentially the intent to deploy those weapons," McChrystal said.

He said U.S. forces are being very careful in targeting sites where chemical or biological weapons may be stored in order to avoid releasing them into the air.

"But I would remind you that when chemical and biological weaponsare disseminated they can be put in fairly small, difficult-to-predict areas. They can be delivered by everything from a garbage truck to a car bomb, as well as, of course, conventional artillery," McChrystal said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke also said U.S. officials have seen some reports that some family members of "very senior officials" of the Iraqi government "are trying to get out of the country." She would not characterize the reports beyond saying they were not media reports.

First Published: Apr 01, 2003 03:03 IST