|The Iraq War|
Report for 2003-04-08
The situation on the US-Iraqi front during the morning-night on April 7th was characterized by extreme fierceness of combat. During the night-morning the coalition units continued to encircle the city [of Baghdad] from west and east. The 2nd brigade of the 3rd Mechanized Division, as was revealed before, after a five-hour march reached the northern approaches of Baghdad and occupied the region bordering the strategic bridge Salah-Khasan, but was unable to seize the bridge itself because of a heavy missile and artillery barrage. Up to 10 men were killed, at least 20 wounded. In the morning the brigade lost its communication center destroyed by a tactical Iraqi missile.
From south-east the American marine units that had repeatedly tried to seize a strategic bridge across the Diyala, as we assumed before, during the night advanced to the eastern suburbs of the New Baghdad and by the morning tried to take over bridges near the "Rashid" airport. In this violent conflict the bridges were destroyed by the Iraqi artillery and the marines sustained losses. According to intercepted radio communications up to 5 marines were killed, at least 12 wounded. 3 APC and 1 tank were destroyed.
Last night on the right bank of the Tigris in the Al-Mansur region American commandos numbering up to 200 men landed in a block of government buildings. Apart from that, fighting squadrons landed on two government residences in this region. The goal of the operation was to capture top officials of Saddam Hussein's administration. Almost immediately the airdrop was detected and engaged. In order to unblock the commandos at 7am an enforced tank battalion from the 1st brigade of the 3rd Mechanized Division entered the city and after a two-hour fight was able to break into the Haifa street along the Kadissiya roadway and partly reached the bank of the Tigris. This movement turned out [to be] unexpected by the Iraqis and met no resistance at first. But in the region of the government quay the American forces confronted with organized Iraqi defenses. After 3 hours of battle the commandos got to the American positions and the whole column fell back from the city. The American losses total up to 10 men killed, 20 wounded and 10 missing. Up to 3 tanks and 3 APC were destroyed. The commandos only examined a few government buildings in a hurry. All of them were found empty and no captives were taken. The tolls of the Iraqi side during the day were up to 150 men killed and about 200 wounded. They lost up to 5 tanks and 8 guns.
By the afternoon Iraqi actions became more confident. There is information that one of yesterday's air strikes severely damaged one of their communication and control centers and currently the Iraqi command has to control their units using VHF-stations and envoys which delays battle-orders and commands.
Today the American command had to admit that the fighting potential of Baghdad defenders is "fairly high" and the rivals show no sign of demoralization.
By this evening the situation on the US-Iraqi front in the environs of Baghdad has become less tense.
All the American units have returned to their initial positions corresponding to the morning of April 7th. Currently artillery and aviation occasionally open fire at the city. The details of today's raid of the 1st tank brigade of the 3rd Mechanized Division column to the central district of Baghdad are now available. Radio surveillance data allow us to contend that it was a joint action of the American Special Forces and the army command. Having penetrated into Baghdad a few days before, the commandos after reconnaissance concentrated near several government buildings and got ready for a storm [an assault].
At the same time from the Khan-Azad region towards Al-Rashid along the Kadissiya roadway advanced a mechanized unit of the 3rd Division consisting of one tank battalion and one motorized infantry battalion (up to 70 tanks and 60 armored personnel carriers). No sooner had the column reached the outskirts of the city, at the rear of the Iraqis, [than] the commandos started to storm the target objects - two government buildings and the building of the Ministry of Information, the waiting room of the Security Service and the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. The main objective was to find an entrance to the government underground shelter system and capture high-ranking Iraqi officials. Without combat the commandos were able to seize the Al-Shihud palace and the Republican Palace, which were guarded by small patrols only. The palaces turned out [to be] empty, and their examination did not reveal any underground shelters. Soon after the palaces had been captured a column of the 1st brigade moved into this region and stood guard over it.
But when attempting to storm the government offices the commandos were sighted, blockaded and engaged by the guardians. In order to help the commandos a mixed battalion group that had managed to break to the quay of the Tigris moved forward but was stopped by an anti-tank artillery barrage and got ambushed by RPG soldiers. During that almost two-hour battle the Americans lost up to 5 APC and 2 tanks. At least 8 solders were killed and more than 20 wounded. By 3pm the remains of the commando assault groups forced their way to the American positions and at 15:30 their common withdrawal began. At 5pm the American troops left the city. The exact casualties of the American Special Forces remain unclear. According to communications between American commanders the status of least 15 men is unknown. Whether they are dead, captured or hiding in the city is still obscure. It was reported that the commandos captured a high officer but during the rush he was killed and left in the city.
The American command criticized the raid. General Tommy Franks who came to the airport region called the level of the casualties during this local operation "unacceptable" and the results "paltry". Yet it was noted that the Iraqi command reacted on bringing the forces into Baghdad "with an inexplicable delay" and the actions of the counter-attacking Iraqi units "uncoordinated". American commanders believe that it happened due to "severe malfunction of the whole communication and control system". It is still unclear what damaged Iraqi communications. According to some data most of the high command left the city after it had been blockaded and moved to a reserve command center located in the northern regions of Iraq while the local command remaining in the city had not yet taken control over the situation.
Some officers in the coalition HQ presume that if this is the case then even storming Baghdad will not finish this war and a "campaign to the north", where quite an effective and large group of Iraqi troops remains, might be necessary.
During this day the British forces of the 7th armored brigade and the 3rd marine brigade have been assaulting Basra. After a nine-hour battle the British have managed to occupy the districts of the "New Basra", Subhay and Ahavat-Rezan, and have advanced into "Old Basra" towards the Presidential residence, but still cannot take control of the old districts. The Al-Ashar and Akina regions as well as a part of the Al-Arab quay remain in Iraqi hands and the British command admits that it will be very difficult to occupy them since armored units cannot move down narrow streets.
The total losses of the British in this region amount to at least 7 killed and 15 wounded. A tank and 2 APC were destroyed. The Iraqis lost up to 100 men killed, about 50 captured, 3 tanks and 6 guns. The British estimate the number of defenders in the old districts to be 500 Iraqi militiamen and soldiers of the 51st Infantry Division supported by at least 10 tanks, 12 guns and a lot of portable antitank launchers.
This morning the coalition troops captured Karbala. According to its citizens most of the Iraqi units that were defendeding the town during the evening-night of April 6th left it and moved north. Just a few home guard units remaining in the town; [they] ceased their resistance and mixed with the local population. A captured RG officer said that the order to leave the town was received in the morning of April 6th personally from Saddam Hussein after the general HQ obtained information about the American artillery barrage that resulted in a few shells dropping near one of the main Moslem sacred places, the grave of Hussein ibn-Ali. So as not to insult the Shia population of Karbala by the possible destruction of the sacred place the order to leave the town was issued. Currently the Americans are trying to reveal and "clean off" "Saddam's agents".
Reports about taking over the Al-Khindiya town after the ten-day storm are also coming. The town of 30,000 people was in turn assaulted by an Expeditionary Marine unit and later a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. After occupation of the town and interrogation of captives it was discovered that the whole garrison of Al-Khindiya consisted of 3 RG companies and 1 militia squadron, about 500 soldiers altogether. More than 200 defenders of the town were killed, about 100 captured. In battles of Al-Khindiya the Americans lost up to 15 men killed, at least 40 wounded. 10 armored vehicles were destroyed. By evidence of a "Red Crescent" representative who came there yesterday, even seriously wounded soldiers incapable of walking were taken to the prisoner-of-war camp. Arrests of citizens suspected of resistance are now taking place in the town.
An-Nasiriya, An-Najaf, Al-Kut, Ad-Divaniya and some more small towns on the south of Iraq remain under Iraqis' control. Only yesterday the Americans lost up to 5 armored vehicles, at least 3 men killed and 10 wounded. Today near An-Nasiriya a rear American column got ambushed. The casualties are unknown so far, but judging from the immediate takeoff of aviation cover and helicopters with an airborne unblocking group the battle is not in favor of the column.
All the information the Russian side has about the fire opened at the Russian embassy column indicate that shooting at the diplomats and journalists was not an accidental event but rather a planned action of terror and retribution. This version is also supported by today's attempts by the Americans to stop the column en route and carefully examine the diplomats' cars and accompanying baggage. The Russian Foreign Ministry and high-ranking officials keep silent. After the meeting of President Vladimir Putin and the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice they agreed "to forget about this regrettable incident" and to "prevent any impact on the Russian-American partnership".
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