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Fierce Fighting, Bombing Reported in Iraq - 2003-03-30

Fierce fighting and round-the-clock bombing is reported in Iraq, as coalition forces continue to push toward Baghdad. Meanwhile, the U.S. defense secretary vows there will be no pause in the military campaign.

Explosions from bombs dropped by coalition airplanes continued to rock Baghdad, as the U.S.-led coalition sought to break Republican Guard units entrenched in the sprawling city's outskirts. Thousands of coalition troops in the central part of the country are working to clear a route northward toward the Iraqi capital.

U.S. Apache helicopters faced mortar fire in the central city of Najaf, and coalition troops also met with pockets of resistance in a string of towns on the main roads to Baghdad.

In the south, fierce fighting continued in Basra, where British officers say they have captured an Iraqi general.

U.S. Commander Tommy Franks declared a recent military success in northern Iraq. "Coalition forces have attacked and destroyed a massive terrorist facility in the last 48 hours in northern Iraq and ground forces, as we speak, are exploiting the results of that strike," he said.

In response to questions about changes in strategy following a suicide attack Saturday, General Franks says coalition forces will exercise more caution when dealing with civilians.

"One would expect a review of tactics, techniques, procedures and so forth associated with this business of potential suicide bombers," he said.

Iraqi leaders claim more than 4,000 Arabs have voluntarily come to Iraq to stage suicide attacks.

In another incident that is under investigation, a pick-up truck driven by a man in civilian clothes struck soldiers at a U.S. military camp Sunday in Kuwait. There were injuries, but no one was reported killed.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the ABC television program This Week that there will be no lull in the fighting.

"We have no plans for pauses or ceasefires, or anything else," he said. "Now, it is possible that, for example, the British troops will be engaged in Basra for a period? Sure."

Mr. Rumsfeld told Fox News Sunday he feels that Iraqi people must be having doubts about their leaders, who he says have practically disappeared.

"They [Iraqi people] have seen an attack on their leadership and we have not seen their leadership since. Where is Saddam Hussein? Where is Qusay, where is Uday, his sons? They [the leaders] are not talking," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld added that he believes the families of some Iraqi leaders may have fled the country.

The defense secretary added that U.S. forces are holding about 4,500 Iraqi prisoners of war.

On the humanitarian front, a British ship in the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr brought in relief supplies. But British spokesmen say large-scale aid distribution will begin only when security has improved.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of war protesters came out in India and Indonesia, the largest demonstrations in both of those countries since the U.S.-led war began earlier this month. Thousands of anti-war protesters also took to the streets in Bangladesh, Cyprus, Pakistan, and South Korea.

Authorities in China granted rare permission for a small anti-war demonstration at Peking University, but canceled another Chinese rally in a Beijing park.