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Baghdad is Encouraging Volunteers for Suicide Missions, says Iraqi Official - 2003-03-31

Despite the advance of U.S.-led troops to within 80 kilometers of Baghdad and the daily bombing of the city, Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, is claiming major successes against coalition forces in recent days.

He told reporters that Iraq's paramilitary units, members of Iraq's Baath party, and troops loyal to Saddam Hussein killed 43 coalition troops in battles Saturday and Sunday.

There is no independent confirmation of that figure.

Reports based on information from coalition officials show that, since the war began 12 days ago less than 50 U.S. and British troops have been killed by enemy action.

The information minister also said that weekend fighting resulted in the destruction of four Apache helicopters. U.S. officials say no helicopters are missing.

Mr. al-Sahaf said hundreds of thousands of people from all factions and creeds throughout Iraq are fighting coalition forces. The information minister also said Baghdad is encouraging volunteers for suicide missions.