The Commander of Coalition forces in the Persian Gulf ? U-S General Tommy Franks says coalition forces are making what he called ?rapid progress? toward their objectives in Iraq. He told reporters in Doha, Qatar Monday U-S and British forces are now operating throughout the country ? and have taken thousands of Iraqi prisoners.


?Our forces have met sporadic resistance in a number of places on the battlefield. But as our troops fight, even in isolated areas, there will be casualties. There have been casualties, because from the perspective of the fighting men on the ground, even an isolated set of combat situations represents violence which he must meet face to face.?

General Franks also said the resistance is coming from Iraqi troops, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein?s ?Fedayeen? paramilitaries and the elite Republican Guard.

?I have actually seen no surprise here and I think that our people on the ground have not seen a surprise. There are people in the Iraqi Army ? whether it is the Special Republican guard or Fedayeen, who have a lot of allegiance to the regime.?

General Franks also confirmed Iraqi reports of a downed U-S Apache helicopter and said its two-man crew was missing.

Meanwhile, U-S forces launched a fresh attack on Iraqi troops in the Southern city of Nasiriyah ? the site of heavy fighting and U-S casualties on Sunday.

And loud explosions again rocked the Iraqi capital ? Baghdad -- Monday ? the fifth day of bombing. Among the targets ? one of Saddam Hussein?s palaces. The Iraqi leader was seen on state television Monday -- giving a speech. He praised his troops for their courage -- and pledged victory over coalition forces.

Meanwhile, some forces wounded in the conflict ? arrived at the U-S base in Ramstein, Germany Monday ? for treatment.