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Iraq Claims Overnight Bombing Caused Civilian Casualties - 2003-03-22


Iraq says the overnight bombing of Baghdad has resulted in civilian casualties and that Iraqi troops continue to wage fierce battles against coalition forces throughout the country, disputing coalition advances at several places.

Iraq's information minister says Friday night's massive bombing of Baghdad resulted in the hospitalization of 207 civilians, whom he said were mostly women and children.

During a news conference Saturday morning in Baghdad, the information minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, acknowledged Baghdad had been hit with hundreds of missiles and bombs that destroyed several government buildings.

He said one of the buildings was a guest house for visiting diplomats and another was a former royal palace near the capital's international airport.

He also denied coalition claims that coalition forces control the southern port of Umm Qasr and the strategic Faw peninsula. He said fierce battles are continuing to be waged against coalition forces throughout Iraq.

Saturday, British military officials acknowledged that "pockets of resistance" still exist in some parts of Umm Qasr.

He also denied that Iraq's 51st Division has surrendered. He said the division is still fighting and inflicting what he called the "ugliest losses" against coalition forces, again a claim that has not been confirmed.

Friday, U.S. defense officials said the commander and vice commander of the division had surrendered to marines in the first reported surrender by senior Iraqi military officers.

Mr. Sahhaf also charged that coalition forces had "kidnapped" civilians in and around the southern city of Basra and then claimed they were soldiers as part of a psychological campaign to make people believe coalition forces are winning.

On the streets of Baghdad Saturday, workers were clearing rubble away as smoke still billowed from burning buildings, including the main building of the Republican Palace compound, a symbol of Saddam Hussein's control on Iraq since 1979.

Workers were also clearing rubble from the building believed to be the headquarters of security services.

Traffic in Baghdad was reported to be lighter than normal, but reporters said it appeared many Iraqis were attempting to go about their business as normally as possible.

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