Iraq dismisses reports about quick advance towards Baghdad while US says forces are kilometers away from city gates
Baghdad's Saddam International Airport was Thursday afternoon still under the full control of the Iraqi authorities, AFP reported.
US military officials said earlier in the day that US troops leading an advance on Baghdad had moved near the Iraqi capital's airport. "I can confirm they're outside the airport," which is 20 kilometres from the center of Baghdad, said Major Randi Steffy, a spokeswoman for the US Central Command in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf on Thursday declared success of Iraqi troops fighting the US-led invading forces.
He told a daily news briefing that Iraqi troops destroyed three tanks, one armored personnel vehicle, a jet fighter and an Apache helicopter in the south of the country.
In what he called the "real lesson" on Day 15 of the war, Sahhaf said, "We repulsed their attack on Basra today as Armored Brigade 422 of the Republican Guard downed an Apache chopper and an F-18 warplane."
The invasion forces are advancing in the desert as they were in the past days, he said, adding "they are moving like a 'serpant' and we are now able to finish off them."
They attacked the southern city of Kut and fired at "our courageous Republican Guard units, but our units defeated them and compelled them out of the city," he said proudly.
Sahaf also said the United States is withholding information on bodies found in the southern city of Al-Nasiriyah, claiming those are the bodies of American soldiers killed in the battle.
The Iraqi minister accused invasion forces of using cluster bombs in the Iraqi residential area of Dura, killing 14 civilians and wounding 66 others. In Diwanyah, they bombed a textile factory, killing innocent civilians, he added.
Updating civilian casualties, Sahaf said the latest wave of
coalition bombing on Thursday left 193 injured in Baghdad only. On Wednesday night, the bombing injured 140 Iraqis and killed five others, he said.
"Don't believe that coalition forces are near Baghdad. They are away from Baghdad and will not storm it, God Willing," he declared. US Central Command said later that its forces had pushed within less than 7 km of the Baghdad city gates. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)