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Airborne Opens New Front in Iraq; Mines Delay Food Aid in Umm Qasr

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2003 – Several hundred "Sky Soldiers" of the 173rd Airborne Brigade opened a new front in a Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq, defense officials announced.

The troopers jumped onto an airfield. Now that the area is secure, flights will bring in more equipment and personnel. The 173rd is based in Vicenza, Italy. Joint Staff officials said the landing was unopposed and the jump went well.

The presence of U.S. troops in the region puts the squeeze on the regime of Saddam Hussein and, U.S. officials said, will give a psychological boost to Kurds opposed to him. U.S. planners had hoped to have a Northern Front in the war against Iraq from the beginning, but Turkey refused to allow the U.S. 4th Infantry Division to traverse its territory to attack.

U.S. special operations forces operated in the north even before hostilities started. Officials said they were on hand when the 173rd made its drop. Army officials said this was the largest combat airborne operation since the Vietnam War. The 173rd participated in that operation, too.

In the south, the discovery of mines in the channel leading from Umm Qasr to the Persian Gulf has delayed a British ship carrying humanitarian aid to the Iraqi civilian populace.

The British logistics ship HMS Sir Galahad was scheduled to deliver some 650 tons of food, water and medical supplies to the Iraqi deep-water port. But British ships discovered "mine-like" objects in the channel. U.S. and British ships are sweeping the channel, and British officials expect the Galahad to dock tomorrow.

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