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Coalition Forces Face Roadblocks in Ground War - 2003-03-28

Turning to the ground campaign, coalition forces say they are still forging their way toward Baghdad. But as Robert Raffaele reports, U.S. and British troops are still facing tough resistance at several battlefronts. NARRATOR In Iraq’s second-largest city Basra, British troops say Iraqi paramilitary forces opened fire on several thousand Iraqi civilians trying to flee. A British solider said the civilians were crossing a bridge leading out of the city, when they came under attack.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER “Two or three hundred made a move across the bridge and at that time they started being shelled by the Iraqi forces. A number of wounded and the crowd quickly dispersed, some of our forces made it forwards over the bridge to retrieve a number of the wounded, one of whom, a young girl, is quite seriously wounded at this time.”

NARRATOR A spokesman for the British military said another group of civilians did manage to get out of Basra.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines came under fire in Diwaniyah and Najaf in central Iraq. Four Marines are missing after heavy fighting at Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

This comes as the U.S. is preparing to deploy more ground troops to the Kurdish-controlled section of northern Iraq, where Army paratroopers seized control of an airstrip.

U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad announced the new deployment Friday, during a meeting with Kurdish Democratic Party leader, Masood Barzani.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY “No part of Iraq will be outside the area of activity for the coalition, including northern Iraq. I think you have seen some military activity in the last few, several days in the north as well, and I think you will see more of that.”

NARRATOR Mister Khalilzad did not say how many, or when, those U.S. troops would be deployed.