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Suicide Car Bombing Kills 5 Near Baghdad - 2003-04-04

Coalition officials say a car bomb has exploded southwest of Baghdad, killing three U.S. troops and two civilians.

Coalition deputy operations director, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, says the capture of Iraq's largest airport followed a day of fighting by the American Fifth Corps, which advanced from al-Kut and defeated two divisions of Iraq's Republican Guard.

"The attack continued through the night, and by dawn this morning, the coalition had seized the international airport west of Baghdad, formerly known as Saddam International Airport," said General Brooks.

General Brooks said the airport has been renamed Baghdad International Airport, and called it the gateway to the future of Iraq.

He said the airport previously had been damaged by coalition forces, in order to prevent Iraqi leaders from using it to escape. But a senior operations official told VOA, coalition commanders hope to have helicopters using the airport in two days and fixed-wing aircraft operating there within a week.

General Brooks said coalition forces have advanced beyond positions around Baghdad that were said to be protected by Iraq's most loyal and best-equipped forces.

"We have penetrated the defensive ring that was set by the Republican Guard forces," he said. "That came by way of destruction of divisions of Republican Guard forces along that line."

General Brooks said heavy fighting occurred during this offensive.

The U.S. official also announced that a car bomb exploded near the Hadithah Dam southwest of Baghdad, killing three special forces troops.

"A vehicle approached the checkpoint. A woman who appeared to be clearly pregnant exited the vehicle screaming for assistance, in some degree of distress. As coalition forces began to approach, she and the vehicle were detonated," said General Brooks.

The woman and the driver of the vehicle were also killed in the explosion.

Finally, General Brooks confirmed that special operations forces in western Iraq attacked what appeared to be a school for training in the use of chemical weapons. He said they seized a bottle labeled Tabin, the name of a chemical agent developed several decades ago.