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Marine killed, first combat death in Iraq

A US Marine died in action as US forces pushed through the Iraqi desert and heavy bombers took off from UK to press air campaign.

world Updated: Mar 21, 2003 20:12 IST

A US Marine died in action, becoming the first allied combat casualty of the Iraq war, as American forces pushed through the Iraqi desert and heavy bombers took off from Britain to press the air campaign.

The soldier was from the US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt Col Neal Peckham, a British military spokesman in Kuwait, said on Friday. Military officials said the Marine died in the advance on the Rumeila oil field.

US Central Command gave no other details.

President George W Bush was informed of the death early on Friday and expressed his regrets.

Hours earlier, eight British and four American soldiers died in a US Marine helicopter crash that a British military spokesman said was an accident.

Five of the 14 B-52 bombers at Fairford air base in western England took off today as night approached in Iraq.

American and British troops encountered both hostile fire and white flags in their race across the desert, with some 200 Iraqi soldiers surrendering to the US 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit just over an hour after it crossed the border from northern Kuwait.

Iraqi defenders offered stiff resistance in some pockets, firing intense artillery barrages that were answered in kind.

Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld said direct talks were taking place with Iraqi forces and it was possible the "full force and fury of a war" could be averted.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 20:12 IST