Up to 3,000 Iraqi Fighters Dead in Show of Force
Up to 3,000 Iraqi Fighters Dead in Show of Force Run in Baghdad
The Boston Globe | Associated Press
Sunday 6 April 2003
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar -- Between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqi fighters were killed as the 3rd Infantry Division moved through southwestern Baghdad, U.S. Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson said.
The raid Saturday was the first incursion into the Iraqi capital, and was designed to send a message to both the Iraqi leadership and civilians that coalition forces could move into the city at will, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart. It took troops on a 25-mile run through a corner of Baghdad.
''I know the number that Gen. Franks was briefed on and it was between 2,000 and 3,000,'' Wilkinson said.
Central Command officials declined to say how they came up with those figures. Previously, they have refused to give Iraqi death tolls.
Wilkinson said while some Iraqi civilians welcomed the troops, other Iraqis put up a fight, including a mixture of Republican Guard and irregular forces.
''I don't want to overstate the heavy fighting. A lot of the time there was no fighting. In some portion of the time, there was fighting,'' he said.
U.S. officials have said there were limited casualties on the American side.
The blitz took two task forces of the 3rd Infantry Division up from the southern outskirts of the city, past Baghdad University and near the banks of the Tigris River, then back out to the western outskirts of the city to the airport, which is under coalition control.
After the raid, Iraqi Republican Guard, Fedayeen militiamen and other troops were out in force in Baghdad for the first time.
Marines Fight Hidden Enemy Street to Street
By Dexter Filkins
New York Times
Sunday 6 April 2003
Urban warfare has come to the outskirts of Baghdad.
It began on Friday morning, when an American M1 Abrams tank was destroyed by an Iraqi missile in an ambush. For several hours, street-to-street fighting raged, with as much horror and confusion as the Pentagon's war planners had imagined.
The Americans won overwhelmingly. There was fighting in the streets and in tight places, where the tanks and bombs could not go but the men with rifles could. A leading Iraqi officer met an ignominious end. A number of Iraqi civilians died here, too.
"Usually, when we get in here, the bombers and the tanks have taken care of the big stuff," said Lieutenant Brent Biniek, second in command of an infantry company. "Here, we had to do all the work ourselves. It was real scary."
As the marines cleaned up on Saturday after the battle, Thomas Smith, a Navy medical corpsman from Brooklyn, sat alone in his ambulance, thinking of hours gone by. On Friday, as 14,000 troops of the 1st Marine Division streamed north toward Baghdad, Smith's ambulance ran into an ambush. An American tank, hit by a missile, burst into flames, blocking the road ahead. Then his driver, Corporal Luke Holden, was shot in the hand. Smith put his comrade in the ambulance and then began treating wounded marines at the scene. Moments later, he felt a bullet hit his own chest; it left a large hole in his Kevlar vest.
By sunset, Smith's ambulance overflowed with wounded marines.
"All the stretchers were full of blood," he said. "I was shooting guys with morphine. Pretty much all of them had gunshot wounds."
The marines said their Iraqi foes fought harder on Friday than at any other time in the war. Their aim was truer, they held their ground and they were well armed. By the end of the day, three marines had been killed and an M1 tank was destroyed.
Why had the Iraqis fought so hard? There was an intriguing clue on a side road here. The body of a well-groomed man in a green uniform was lying next to a white Toyota sedan. After searching the uniformed man's papers, marines said they believed him to be the chief of staff of the Special Republican Guard, widely regarded as one of Saddam Hussein's toughest units.
"To be honest with you, we didn't expect anything," Lieutenant Biniek said. "We did expect ambushes, but we didn't expect as much close-in combat." Whatever the surprises, Lieutenant Biniek characterised the battle as one that put them closer to their ultimate objective. And he said he was prepared to continue all the way to Saddam's palace.
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