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Iraqi Officials Claim Destruction of Coalition Equipment, Supplies - 2003-04-01

Senior Iraqi officials say Iraqi troops are continuing to destroy tanks, helicopters and other military equipment, including a large drop of British military supplies in northern Iraq. Coalition spokesmen deny the claims.

Iraqi officials claim American aircraft attacked two buses Monday on a road from Iraq to Jordan, injuring, among others, two Americans who had gone to Iraq to act as human shields. There has been no confirmation of this report.

Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, also told a news conference in Baghdad that coalition bombing raids during the past 24 hours had killed 19 civilians and injured more than 100 others in Baghdad.

He said nine children were killed in Babylon, including an infant.

None of this information can be independently verified. And it should be noted that since the beginning of the war, while Iraqi officials report civilian casualties they have refused to reveal how many Iraqi troops and fighters have been killed during armed battles.

Mr. al-Sahaf said coalition forces had targeted telephone systems and television and radio transmitters during overnight raids throughout the country.

He said Iraqi troops had shot down an Apache helicopter and destroyed seven tanks and seven personnel carriers in the southern city of Najaf.

The information minister also claimed that a British military drop of supplies and personnel late Monday in northern Iraq had failed.

"The British forces, which had been dropped, they had been eliminated mostly," he said. "Only a few managed to flee by helicopters and the Iraqi side, the army, the Fedayeen Saddam and the other fighters had taken most of their equipment, their weapons, their armed cars and beacons. It is a complete defeat for the first military drop in the north. So the results were very tragic to the British."

In response to a question about chemical suits and gas masks being found at several locations in southern Iraq, Mr. al-Sahaf said all military personnel should be in possession of such equipment and that Iraqis are afraid chemical or biological weapons might be used by coalition forces.