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Coalition Targets Senior Iraqi Leaders; Basra Liberated

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2003 – Coalition forces targeted "senior regime officials" in a strike in the Baghdad suburb of al Mansour April 7, a U.S. Central Command official said during a briefing in Qatar today.

A command release said a U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber used precision-guided munitions Monday to strike a suspected meeting site. The strike used four 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

CENTCOM spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said it is too early to assess the results of the strike. He said perishable intelligence indicated these senior leaders would be at the meeting. The first strike of the war on March 19 was directed at "senior regime leaders" also. Later, DoD officials said that the target, then, was Saddam Hussein and his sons.

British forces have eliminated the final regime holdouts in Basra, Brooks said. There is still some fighting going on with irregular forces, but organized resistance is over.

"To all intents the specific aims of the military base plan for the Basra province have been achieved," Col. Chris Vernon, a British army spokesman in Qatar, said earlier. "The oil infrastructure in Rumailah and the Al Faw Peninsula have been secured intact, guaranteeing the future economic viability of Iraq. The port of Umm Qasr is operating.

"The Iraqi regular army has been rendered combat ineffective, and the irregular resistance suppressed," Vernon added. "Basra is now free, and the final elements of the vicious Ba'athist control extinguished."

Baghdad remains the main focus of the coalition land component. "The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force attacked across the Diyala River into the southwest corner of the city," Brooks said.

He noted the unit encountered T-72 tanks, armored personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles, artillery pieces and numerous civilian vehicles outfitted with weaponry. CENTCOM officials call the last "technical vehicles." The Marines took the Rasheed airport.

On the other side of the city, 5th Corps troops remained in the center of the city overnight. Other corps units attacked from the north and south, Brooks said. "They also encountered a mixture of forces, including T-72 tanks, armored vehicles, technical vehicles and artillery pieces."

Brooks confirmed that an Iraqi surface-to-air missile brought down an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support aircraft today. Coalition forces rescued the pilot.

In the north, he said, coalition special operations forces are working with Kurdish forces to maintain pressure on the Iraqi regime. The pressure keeps Saddam's forces from reinforcing Baghdad.

"In one engagement yesterday near Irbil, our special operations forces in conjunction with close-air support were able to destroy a force consisting of several armored personnel carriers, tanks and infantry," Brooks said. Near Kirkuk another special operations group defeated an Iraqi counterattack and destroyed a number of tanks, trucks and APCs.

In Najaf and Karbala, operations continue to eliminate any regime elements that are present, Brooks said. "There are combat operations ongoing east of Karbala," Brooks said.

Brooks said samples of suspected chemical agents discovered yesterday have been taken for further testing. He said officials will announce the results as soon as possible.

Speaking about incidents in Baghdad that killed an Al Jazeera reporter and wounded others, Brooks said the coalition does not target reporters.

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