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Missile Aimed at Kuwait Intercepted - 2003-04-01

U.S. missiles intercepted at least one Iraqi missile fired in the general direction of Kuwait Tuesday, after a night of heavy bombing in Baghdad. Meanwhile, coalition troops advanced closer to the Iraqi capital and continued to battle Iraqi forces in several cities in central Iraq.

More than a dozen missiles struck Baghdad Monday night and Tuesday morning, and a large explosion was seen at the main presidential palace in the Iraqi capital. Reporters said it was one of the most intense nights of bombing since the war on Iraq began 13 days ago.

Meanwhile, coalition officials said American troops at a checkpoint in central Iraq killed a civilian who refused to stop his vehicle. A similar incident occurred earlier near the city of Najar when coalition troops fired on a civilian vehicle, killing seven Iraqi women and children. Officials say soldiers opened fire after the vehicle refused to stop. They said the incident is under investigation.

The head of the media center at coalition headquarters in Qatar, James Wilkinson, called it a sad and tragic incident, but blamed it on the Iraqi tactic of using soldiers disguised as civilians to attack coalition forces. "This is a by-product of the new security measures we have had to put into place, or a by-product of the regime's tactics of terrorism," he said.

The incident occurred in the same area where an Iraqi officer in civilian clothes detonated a car bomb Saturday, killing four U.S. soldiers.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, speaking from a bombed government building in Baghdad, told reporters more than five-thousand Arabs have come to Iraq to join the fight against the U.S. led coalition. "Those American and British soldiers who will not surrender to our forces will face nothing but death," he said. "We shall turn our desert into a big graveyard."

Partly in response to such threats, the deputy director of operations of the coalition, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, said special forces troops were checking travelers on roads in western Iraq linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria. "We are eliminating freedom of action and freedom of movement from anyone that would pass through there," he said. "And, so if we see someone coming on roads, we may stop and check and see who they are."

The general added that special operations forces destroyed two Iraqi convoys in western Iraq, including 10 tanks. The coalition also destroyed several Iraqi military planes at an airport in the region.

U.S. troops south of Baghdad, meanwhile, continue to battle Iraqi forces, some of which were said to belong to the elite Republican Guard. And British troops continue their offensive to neutralize pockets of resistance in the southern city of Basra. They are using the mass media to reassure Iraqi civilians traumatized by food shortages and nearly two weeks of fighting.