The U.S. 3rd Infantry Division's artillery opened fire Thursday on Iraqi troops with Paladin self-propelled howitzers and multiple launch rocket systems in the first stage of the ground war.
Maj. Gen. Bufourd Blount, the division commander, had said that the artillery barrage would signal the first phase of the ground war against Iraq.
According to press reports, dozens of artillery shells were fired and the explosions inside Iraq could be heard.
The Kuwait News Agency, quoting an unidentified Kuwaiti Army source, said American and British troops captured the southern Iraqi city of Umm Qasr and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered.
But Iraq's Al-Shabab TV denied that Umm Qasr was captured, saying Iraqi and allied forces exchanged artillery and rocket fire across the Kuwaiti border. It quoted the official Iraqi News Agency.
Earlier, it was reported by Reuters that the U.S. troops in northern Kuwait were told to don protective chemical suits and be ready for combat by 1630 GMT on Thursday.
Troops assembled close to the border with Iraq were told to be at "MOP1" status -- wearing chemical suits with gas masks at the ready -- by 1630 GMT at the latest.
Commanders said soldiers usually go into battle in MOP1 status but would not say whether this meant a land attack on Iraq was imminent. (Albawaba.com)
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