US Army battles closer to Baghdad
A large contingent of Iraq's elite Republican Guard headed south Wednesday in a convoy of about 1,000 vehicles toward US marines in central Iraq.world Updated: Mar 26, 2003 17:40 IST
A large contingent of Iraq's elite Republican Guard headed south Wednesday in a convoy of about 1,000 vehicles toward US marines in central Iraq, an area that already has seen the heaviest fighting of the war.
In Baghdad, Iraqi officials said two cruise missiles hit a residential area, killing 12.
Intelligence officers with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said the Iraqi forces were headed south from Baghdad on a route that avoids advancing US army forces and leads them directly to the Marines who have been fighting in recent days around An Nasiriyah.
The intelligence officers said about 3,000 Republican Guard troops were spotted in one town along Highway 7 and 2,000 more at another.
The advance appeared to signal that the Republican Guard, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's best trained and most loyal force, was still prepared to go on the offensive despite several days of allied air strikes and missile attacks on its positions.
In Baghdad, Iraqi defence officials said two cruise missiles struck a residential area on Wednesday, killing 12 people. The attack occurred in the northern Al-Shaab neighbourhood, which contains dozens of shops and homes. Civil defence officials cordoned off the site of the attack.
Television footage showed several charred cars at the scene and at least one bloodied body being carried away. Hundreds of people stood in front of what appeared to be a bombed out building, some with their firsts in the air and shouting "There is no God but God."
Meanwhile, a series of explosions could be heard Wednesday afternoon across the Iraqi capital.
In the far south, British forces fought on the fringes of the beleaguered city of Basra, while the first substantial relief convoy reached Iraq on Wednesday after weathering a blinding sandstorm. To the west of where the Republican Guard was advancing, the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division drew to within 50 miles of Baghdad, and other American forces were expected to join soon in squeezing the capital from several directions. Allied bombardments over the past two days have pounded Republican Guard divisions assigned to defend the city.
A military source said the US Central Command in Qatar now had evidence that the Iraqi regime had wired many of the bridges around Baghdad for destruction.