Franks speaks on further attacks on Republican Guard; Iraqi resistance resumed in south as US forces deploy in north
U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, commander of the coalition forces operating in Iraq, on Monday said that the fate of a two-member crew of a U.S. Apache helicopter was "uncertain" and that they were classified as "missing in action."
"The fate of the crew is uncertain right now. We characterise that crew, two men, as missing in action," Franks told a news briefing at Central Command in Qatar.
He said the helicopter was one of between 30 and 40 attacking a particular area. He denied that it had been shot down by farmers but did not say what had forced it out of the air in Iraqi-held territory.
Franks added that Iraq's elite Republican Guard had been attacked around Baghdad and would continue to be attacked in the days ahead.
Franks also said the tenacity of some Iraqi units was no surprise and U.S.-led forces had had some "terrific firefights." "I actually have seen no surprise here and I think that people on the ground have not seen a surprise. There are people in the Iraqi army, whether Special Republican Guard or Fadayeen, who have a lot of allegiance to this regime," he told a news briefing at Central Command headquarters outside Doha, Qatar.
"They (Republican Guard units) have been hit, they will continue to be hit...at points and places and times that make sense to us. The effect has been very positive for us."
On the ground, the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division Monday moved north toward the Shiite holy city of Karbala, some 80 kms south of Baghdad.
To the south, British troops were engaged in artillery exchanges with Iraqi forces on the outskirts of Basra, British military officials said. British troops have remained outside the city, unable to move through it because of the Iraqi resistance.
A British spokeswoman at U.S. Central Command said the resistance was coming from irregular units, either the elite Republican Guard, Special Security Organization forces or Saddam's Fedayeen, the Baath Party paramilitary organization.
Outside the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Karbala, U.S. soldiers skirmished with Iraqi forces before dawn Monday. Iraqis shot rockets and anti-aircraft guns at the Americans.
In an apparent indication of renewed Iraqi resistance in the south, the U.S. military canceled a news media trip to Iraq's most productive oil field, which allied forces previously claimed to have secured. Marine Capt. Danny Chung said the Rumeila oil field was "unsafe" Monday. He gave no details, but there have been news reports of Iraqi attacks on the field.
Also, a trip for reporters to the southern city of Umm Qasr, where there was sporadic fighting days after the allies took effective control, was canceled as well.
Elsewhere, US forces have been in northern Iraq for about 24 hours, an American officer said Monday.
US Marine Col. Keith Lawless, speaking to reporters before a news briefing in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, has just said the American forces had arrived. There have been reports in recent days of aircraft landing in the region at night. (Albawaba.com)
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