Al-Jazeera:American forces acknowledge stiff resistance

Al-Jazeera TV website report. Saturday, 22 March 2003, 10:50 GMT

FIFTY IRAQIS KILLED WHEN US AIRPLANES BOMB BASRA Al-Jazeera-s correspondent in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has reported that more than 50 Iraqis, and one Russian citizen have been killed when F-16 aircraft intensively bombed positions in the city of Basra, south of the capital Baghdad. The correspondent added that a family of four, including a one-year-old child, was killed in the bombing in which cluster bombs were used.

Meanwhile the Iraqi Information Minister, Muhammad Sa`id as-Sahhaf, has described as “pure propaganda” what the Americans and British are saying about having achieved victories in the various areas they have passed through. Al-Sahhaf said that everything that has been said about Umm Qasr and other cities is not true, and he declared that the Iraqi forces in positions on al-Faw peninsula, and in Umm Qasr, al-Nasiriyya, Umm al-Shaykh, al-Bateha, and Qa`idat al-Imam `Ali are still strongly resisting. They have inflicted casualties in the ranks of the enemy, and enemy forces have been forced to withdraw from some positions.

Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, al-Sahhaf denied that the prisoners displayed by the American and British forces are Iraqi soldiers. He said that the western forces, whom he described as “mercenaries” are “lying”, and that they had been seizing civilians and kidnapping residents of the city of al-Faw “to display them on television screens as if they were surrendering soldiers.”

American Marines confirm that they are still meeting with Iraqi resistance in the Port of Umm Qasr in the south of the country. The commander of one of the Marine units said that the American and British forces had captured between 400 and 450 Iraqis in the fighting around the Port of Umm Qasr and the nearby al-Faw Peninsula that commands the entrance to the Gulf. The American Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld declared yesterday, Friday, that the American and British forces had seized control of Umm Qasr.

Meanwhile, violent battles are raging between the invading forces and the Iraqi military west of the city of al-Basra. Captain Andrew Berger of the US Marines said American tanks are now waging a major battle with Iraqi forces on the western outskirts of al-Basra. In remarks to journalists he added “I can say that it is a major battle.” A British spokesman in al-Sayliya Base in Doha, Qatar, said that the forces led by the United States are trying to negotiate the "surrender of al-Basra."

Al-Jazeera-s Tehran correspondent reports that sources among al-Jama`ah al-Islamiyyah and the Kurdish group Jama`at Ansar al-Islam in the north of Iraq say that their positions are now being subjected to an intense American attack that has left dozens killed and wounded. A number of the wounded have been taken to Iranian territory. The two organizations are located in northern Iraq in areas adjacent to land controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal al-Talibani.

Victims of the aggression

Iraq-s Information Minister, Muhammad Sa`id al-Sahhaf has stated in a press conference that the Anglo-American aggression, between last night and until this morning, wounded 207 people. He said that the US Defense Department claimed that they were attacking military positions, and he demanded that journalists visit the hospitals to “see for themselves the 207 military positions.”

Al-Sahhaf also said that the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein had ordered that American and British prisoners of war be treated “in accordance with the Geneva Convention.” He said that "we will adhere to that in compliance with his orders, “despite all the loathsome crimes that this gang of international scoundrels has committed against Iraqis.”

The Iraqi Minister had declared yesterday, Friday, that Iraq will “not apply” international law to prospective prisoners, saying instead that they would be treated “like mercenaries and war criminals.” He had said that how they would be treated would soon be known.

Saturday night-s air raids

The Iraqi capital awoke to three violent explosions that shook whole sections of the city after witnessing the previous night the most violent air raids that the invader forces have launched since the beginning of the aggression Thursday morning.

Officials in the American Defense Department (the Pentagon) said that hundreds of bombers and fighter-bombers took part in the operations as the intense air war against Iraq began. In addition, about ten warships fired cruise missiles.

Admiral Matthew Moffet, commander of the Kitty Hawk battle group declared that the American warships had fired about 320 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets around Baghdad just yesterday, Friday. He confirmed the participation of American navy F-18 Hornet and F14 Tomcat fighter planes in the attack. British Tornado planes also took part.

Other air raids were also carried out in the last 24 hours in al-Mawsil province in the north of Iraq. Al-Jazeera-s correspondent there reports that numerous explosions could be heard in the city-s environs.

He added that other explosions were heard in the direction of the province of Dahouk in the farthest northern part of Iraq on the border with Turkey. In addition there were powerful blasts coming from the province of Kirkuk.

Source: al-Jazeera + agencies,

Translated by Eric Mueller, Plano, Texas USA