Iraq's information minister denied on Wednesday that U.S. troops had crossed the Tigris river in their advance on Baghdad. "I have detailed information about the situation...which completely proves that what they allege are illusions," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a news conference.
"They lie every day. Therefore what they say or allege about success and advances in Najaf and Kerbala are illusions. "They also said they crossed the Tigris, which is another lie. As is what they said about Kut."
U.S. officials said U.S. Marines had seized a key crossing over the Tigris near Kut on Wednesday. They also said they had encircled Kerbala and Najaf and were advancing northward in that part of Iraq as well.
A U.S. military source in the field told Reuters U.S. forces in the vanguard of an advance on Baghdad from the southwest were just 30 km from the southern edge of the Iraqi capital. Advance units from the southeast, along the Tigris river valley, were as near as 40 km away, the sources added.
Al-Sahaf also said that overnight bombing killed 24 civilians and injured 186 across the country. According to him, 10 civilians were killed and 90 wounded in Baghdad.
Twelve people died in a province that includes the city of Samawa, one in the Mosul region and one in Babylon province south of Baghdad. "No matter how many Iraqi civilians they kill, this will make us even stronger and even more determined to repel the invasion and to defeat them," Sahaf said.
According to some reports, U.S. aircraft hit a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, the city's trade fair, and other civilian buildings on Wednesday, killing several people and wounding at least 25.
Hospital sources and a Reuters witness said the attacks occurred at 9:30 a.m. and caught motorists by surprise as they ventured out during a lull in the bombing. At least five cars were crushed with drivers burned to death inside.
At least three doctors and nurses working at the Iraqi Red Crescent hospital were wounded in the blasts. Among the wounded were patients who had come to hospital for help.
The missiles obliterated wings of Baghdad's trade fair building, which lies next to a government security office that was apparently missed in the bombings. (Albawaba.com)
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