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US troops kill 1,000 in 72 hrs near Najaf

US troops have killed 1,000 Iraqis in the past 72 hours, a US officer said, adding thet blinding sandstorms again hampered operations.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2003 13:34 IST

US troops have killed 1,000 Iraqis in the past 72 hours, an American officer said on Wednesday, adding that blinding sandstorms again hampered a decisive push against Baghdad.

In addition to the 650 deaths reported earlier in the Najaf region, a further 250 were killed in two separate incidents on the east bank of the Euphrates and another 100 on a bridge across the river, Major General Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told AFP.

"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has sent about 1,000 reinforcements from his Baath Party, the Fedayeen, and his Al-Quds militia to Najaf, As Sanawa and Nasariyah," he said.

Many of the men were under siege in Najaf as US troops had encircled the city "since last night", he said.

US troops had earlier reported their most one-sided victory of the war so far, ripping through Iraqi militiamen around the Shiite Muslim center of Najaf, their officers said.

"An estimated 650 Iraqis were killed over the last 24 hours in the Najaf area," said Major John Altman, intelligence officer of the Third Infantry Division's First Brigade. No US casualties were reported.

About 200 of the Iraqi deaths were reported around a suspected chemical weapons factory, Altman said, adding that about 300 Iraqis were taken prisoner and another 100 fled, some to take up positions as snipers.

He said the dead included Fedayeen militiamen and fighters of Saddam's ruling Baath Party who battled with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) against US Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

First Published: Mar 27, 2003 02:37 IST