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US Troops Continue Fighting in, around Baghdad - 2003-04-08


Fighting continues at several locations in and around Baghdad, with U.S. ground troops moving on the city from the southeast, west, and the north. One of the prime targets was a residential neighborhood of Baghdad where the Iraqi leadership was believed to be holding a meeting on Monday.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Brigadier General Vince Brooks, says precision guided munitions were used to strike a suspected meeting of senior Iraqi regime leaders in the Mansour section of the capital.

"We had credible information that there was a regime leadership meeting occurring yesterday, while it is not useful to get into speculation about who might have been present at that meeting, what we will say is that we had an opportunity ... to attack that particular regime leadership meeting," he said. "We believe the attack was effective in causing destruction of that facility. As to who was inside and what their conditions are, it will take some time before we can make that full determination."

Earlier, U.S. officials said the attack was carried out following intelligence reports that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, his two sons and other senior officials might be meeting in the building. The officials said the building was completely destroyed, after an American bomber dropped four 900-kilo bunker-penetrating bombs.

The site of the attack is a residential neighborhood. Reports from Baghdad said at least nine people in the area were killed and a dozen others were injured.

A day later in Baghdad, three journalists were killed by U.S. strikes.

The Arabic satellite television network al-Jazeera says its Baghdad office was hit during a U.S. bombing raid and a journalist for the station, Tareq Ayoub, was killed. Shortly afterward, Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk, who worked for the Reuters news agency, and cameraman Jose Cuoso from Telecinco Spanish TV, died when a U.S. tank fired at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel. A U.S. military official told reporters the tank fired one round at the hotel in response to a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire from the building.

Meanwhile, fighting continued at several locations in and around Baghdad, including presidential palaces. Loud explosions shook parts of the city and a thick cloud of black smoke was seen rising into the sky. U.S. Marines entered the Iraqi capital from the south and southeast.

U.S. planes and Apache helicopters attacked a Republican Guard base in southeastern Baghdad.

General Brooks also announced that coalition forces had moved onto Rasheed airport in southeastern Baghdad between the Dialya River and the Tigris River.

"That corner is militarily significant and that is just one of the many operating areas that we will conduct our tactical operations through," he said. "Since operations are continuing, I do not want to characterize much more than that, but forces did enter the airport location this morning and are still doing work to increase the degree of security and control over top of that facility."

The general also confirmed that an American A-10 Warthog aircraft went down near Baghdad International Airport. He said it was possible the plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered by coalition forces near the airport.

In southern Iraq, British forces in the city of Basra say they are taking steps to deal with looters and a lack of water after taking control of the city from Baath party loyalists.

In other developments, U.S. military officers say initial tests indicate they may have found evidence of chemical weapons at two sites in Iraq, but that further tests will be required.

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