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Operation Iraqi Freedom Reaches Focal Point - 2003-04-02


It’s being described as the battle for Baghdad. And while it may be some time away, marked by hours or days, it is the dramatic focal point of operation Iraqi freedom, the campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein. Brian Purchia has the story.

The U.S. military says coalition forces have destroyed the Baghdad division of Iraq's Republican Guard, in an attack near the city of Al Kut. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks.

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
“They’re in trouble. Two, they’re under serious attacks right now and those attacks will continue until we’re finished with the task at hand.”

VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu is with U.S. forces closing in on Baghdad.

VOA CORRESPONDENT ALISHA RYU
“There has been quite a bit of surprise at how little resistance they have met from these Republican Guard units that were supposed to have been guarding the gateway to Baghdad.”

SOLDIER
“The battle for Baghdad probably has begun.”

U.S. Marines are pushing closer to the capital. They seized a key bridge over the Tigris River and took control of the main highway from Al Kut to Baghdad. VOA-TV’s Deborah Block is with a Marine convoy.

DEBORAH BLOCK VOA-TV
“The roads the American convoy are travelling on sometimes pass packed traffic jams because there are so many vehicles on them and because the vehicles are stopped off and on to make sure the road ahead is clear and secure.”

Back in Baghdad, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said coalition-bombing raids around the city killed 10 civilians and wounded 90 others.

IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF
“Whatever they are going to kill, whatever the number is of the Iraqi civilians that they are going to murder this will make us even stronger, more determined to repel the invasion and to defeat them."

Other U.S.-led forces have attacked Republican Guard divisions around the city of Karbala. Reports from the area say coalition troops have the city encircled.

And in northern Iraq, U.S. B-52 bombers hit Iraqi frontline positions near the city of Mosul.

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