Yes, the sand storms are continuing. The U.S. forces are still making some progress. Last night the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, known as the Three-Seven, had a fierce battle overnight with Iraqi forces. These U.S. troops have been fighting, in the past 24 hours they have quite a few of these Iraqi, what they call “light infantry men,” perhaps irregular army people.
They’re not quite sure who they are. But they show up in these light civilian pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back, and engaged this mechanized unit. There was fierce fighting in the last 24 hours. Several hundred Iraqi troops have been killed in various battles with this 3-7 unit of the 3rd Infantry Division.
Last night was particularly heavy. This happened just south of the town of Najah going up towards Baghdad. Now, I understand, the 3rd Infantry Division has almost encircled the town of Najah and things have quieted down. The battle, I believe, ended about 5 a.m. local time, about 2 a.m. GMT. They were supported by close air support. They brought in some jets to help out the 3-7, and they dropped some precision-guided munitions and tried to break up the forces that were putting up quite a fierce resistance, apparently.
There were no U.S. casualties, but we’re told that 2 tanks, these are the M-1 Abrams, and one Bradley fighting vehicle were damaged by rocket-propelled grenades that were fired by these Iraqi forces. The crew were not hurt. They were evacuated. They’re being pulled back and taken care of.
From what I’m told, the British troops in Basra have been trying to find out more about this uprising and try to encourage it. At the same time the civilians that have formed this uprising have been mortared on by Iraqi troops down in Basra. We don’t know if these are Iraqi regular army people, or if they’re Special Forces loyal to Saddam who have been sent down to Basra to put down this kind of uprising, but we’re being told that civilians are being mortared and attacked by these Iraqi forces. As of last night British troops were trying to find them and to hunt them down. I’m not quite sure what the status is at the moment.
If the reports are true, it’s encouraging for the coalition troops, certainly, that the people want to rise up against Saddam Hussein, but it’s also very distressing to hear that they are being targeted by Saddam’s troops who may be dressed as civilians, living among these civilians and spying on the civilians to make sure that they’re not going to put up this kind of uprising and protest against the Saddam government.