basra 'nowhere near' under allied control

  1. 3,363 Posts.
    Mar 29 2003

    By Neil Roberts and Naveed Raja

    The besieged city of Basra is "clearly nowhere near" under Allied forces' control, a British officer admitted today.

    Colonel Chris Vernon also revealed five days of fighting had made it impossible to get aid into the area.

    A ship laden with hundreds of tonnes of food and essential supplies for the people of Basra today docked in the nearby port of Umm Qasr.

    But Col Vernon warned: "Basra is clearly nowhere near yet in our hands and we have no way at the moment of getting humanitarian aid into Basra."

    He was confident the city would eventually fall, but could not say how long it would take. "Not easy, no time lines on it," he said. (More...)

    Meanwhile British defence minister Adam Ingram urged Iraqi troops to surrender in the face of superior firepower - promising them they would have regular lives after the war.

    "Our troops are the finest in the world," he said. "They have the best training and they are supported by state of the art equipment. The Iraqis are simply no match for them."

    In another day of fierce fighting an air strike destroyed the Baghdad Baath party HQ, killing at least eight people - several who were civilians.

    Near Nassiriya four US Marines were reported missing in action where Iraqi militia are mounting a ferocious defence.

    Surprised at the resistance shown captain Lauren Edwards of US Marines admitted: "The militia are fighting pretty good in the town".

    "It's a big surprise. I don't think we expected so much resistance. They're fighting hard and they're fighting dirty."

    Iraqi civilians voiced anger at Anglo-American military attacks in residential areas. A local man called Hussein asked: "How can it be that they are bombing our civilians? It's not right."

    Hopes had risen that aid would finally be delivered to 1.5 million civilians trapped in the city as a British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship arrived in Umm Qasr.

    The Sir Galahad - carrying 200 tonnes of food and 100 tonnes of bottled water - has been delayed for several days because of Iraqi resistance in the town and mines in the channel approaching the dock.

    Aid for the Iraqis is seen as vital to win the battle for the peoples' "hearts and minds". (More...)

    Civilians trying to flee Basra were shot at by Iraqi militias today, another military source claimed.

    Around 2,000 people came under fire from mortars and machine guns as they tried to escape across a bridge south of the city. British Desert Rats returned fire, though they were hampered by fears of hitting civilians. (More...)

    Iraq claimed coalition bombing killed 26 civilians overnight in the central city of Najaf and another seven in Baghdad.

    Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a news conference that 116 people had died and 695 had been injured in the southern city of Basra since the war began.

    Meanwhile British and American jets and missiles continued to pound Baghdad from the air. Coalition military spokesman Lt Cmdr Charles Owens said aircraft and Tomahawk missiles "took out communications and command and control facilities in the capital."

    One of Saddam's presidential palaces was reported destroyed and Arab televison station al-Jazeera said Baghdad's main telephone exchange was hit during heavy bombing.

    Baghdad residents claimed to have shot down a US plane. Al-Jazeera later showed footage of what appeared to be an unmanned US spy 'drone' falling to ground and crowds of celebrating civilians brandishing pieces of wreckage.

    The toll of the war on the Iraqi people was also brought home today when the United Nations childrens' agency said more than half-a-million Iraqi children will need psychological help after the war.

    UNICEF said the trauma of living in a war zone and being on the receiving end of bombing would leave a huge number of youngsters in need of help to get over the war.

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