U.S., British troops move towards Basra, explosions reported in northern Iraq city
U.S. troops advanced through the Iraqi desert in convoys Friday, a day after they and British forces launched the war's ground assault, American sources said.
As the U.S. Marines and Army drove deeper into Iraq, British troops moved on the strategic al-Faw peninsula. British military officials said they hoped to seize the key port of Umm Qasr before the day's end.
Under the shelter of night and supported by heavy bombing, the armored vehicles of the 1st Marine Division rolled into southern Iraq at around 9 p.m. local time on Thursday.
The 20,000 Marines met light resistance from Iraqi "rear guard" units. They opened fire with machine guns on an Iraqi T-55 tank and destroyed it with a Javelin, a portable anti-tank missile.
Troops from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division also crossed into Iraq and came into contact with several Iraqi armored personnel carriers, destroying at least three of them, front line troops reported by radio.
Thursday evening, elite British troops were dropped by Chinook and Sea Stallion helicopters to seize oil facilities in al-Faw after U.S. Seals prepared the area, according to Britain's Press Association news agency.
By taking southern Iraq, the allies would command access to the Gulf and set the stage for the first major conquest on the way to Baghdad - Basra, Iraq's second largest city.
Australian troops were also in Iraq identifying targets for coalition aircraft and monitoring Iraqi troop movements, an Australian defense force spokesman said.
None of the forces apparently encountered chemical or biological weapons.
The Iraqi military claimed in a statement it had repulsed an "enemy" attack at Al-Anbar province, on Iraq's border with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It was not clear what force could be attacking from that point, and the statement did not mention attacks in the south.
Meanwhile, Mosul has been rocked by explosions, a reporter in the northern Iraqi city for Qatar-based Al Jazeera television said on Friday.
The reporter said he heard several explosions in the suburbs of Mosul at around 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT), almost an hour after air raid sirens rang out in the city. (Albawaba.com)
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