U.S. military officals say a car bomb attack at a U.S. checkpoint in central Iraq killed at least four American soldiers. Meanwhile, coalition forces in Iraq are keeping up their relentless round-the-clock bombing of Baghdad, while some advanced ground units have halted their dash to the Iraqi capital to beef up stretched supply lines.
U.S. warplanes fired Tomahawk cruise missiles early Saturday at Iraq's information ministry, causing extensive damage. The attack came after a night of air raids in which the Iraqis say several dozen civilians were killed at a neighborhood market. U.S. military officials say the strikes were aimed at government buildings and Republican Guard positions around the Iraqi capital.
But forces loyal to Saddam Hussein continue to attack coalition troops in central Iraq. VOA's Alisha Ryu, who is with U.S. forces, said a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by U.S. forces in central Iraq, near the town of Najaf. "A car bomb has exploded at a checkpoint that's being used by some of the U.S. forces in the area," she said. "We are also unclear about who was responsible for this. Obviously, this is sort of the ratcheting up of the terrorist type of tactic, the guerilla warfare tactics that the Iraqi forces have been resorting to in this area."
U.S. Central Command in Qatar has confirmed that there has been a car bomb attack, and that there are some casualties among U.S. troops.
Some ground units at the front end of the U.S. advance toward Baghdad from southern Iraq over the past week appear to have been ordered to halt their march for what officers in the field are calling an operational pause. Reporters traveling with those units say field commanders tell them the pause will give the units time to re-supply.
Spokesmen at U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in Qatar deny any such pause, saying operations continue as normal. The U.S. units closest to Baghdad are about 80 kilometers from the Iraqi capital.
To improve the supply effort, U.S. army engineers near the town of Najaf, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad, are hurrying to build an airstrip in the desert capable of handling C-130 transport aircraft. Landing supplies at the airstrip, they say, will reduce the need to bring in provisions by road. The advance force's supply lines have been persistently ambushed by Iraqi irregulars.
Some U.S. commanders say they have been surprised by the fierce resistance they have encountered from these irregular Iraqi forces. VOA's Alysha Ryu said Iraqi militia groups, known as fedayeen, are proving tougher than expected. "I think [the soldiers] understand that this is not going to be a quick war, as a lot of people, perhaps, had hoped, at the very beginning. Certainly, the harassment by the fedayeen and these militia groups has been a factor," she said.
An Iraqi missile exploded early Saturday morning near a seafront shopping mall in Kuwait City. The blast slightly wounded two people and scattered glass and other debris at the nearly deserted mall. The missile itself fell just offshore into the sea. In the last week, 13 missiles have been fired at Kuwait, but this one was the first to reach the capital.
Kuwait Information Minister Ahmed Fahd al-Sabah said his country faces an ongoing threat. "Nobody was thinking about a missile in Kuwait. Now, I think everybody can see it with their eyes, and that means Kuwait is in a very dangerous situation, because it's in the range of those kind of missiles," he said.
In the key southern Iraqi city of Basra, now surrounded by British troops, coalition spokesmen say U.S. warplanes destroyed a two-story building where some 200 Iraqi paramilitaries were believed to be meeting Friday night. Coalition forces accuse the paramilitaries of firing on civilians and using them as human shields.