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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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U.S. forces pound Baghdad television station

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) — U.S. warplanes returned to the attack against Republican Guard positions near Baghdad at dawn Wednesday. An air raid also targeted the state television station in the city center and satellite communications.

Dozens of large explosions struck the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where elite troops loyal to President Saddam Hussein are based. Another hit the city center.

Smoke could be seen rising from an area of Baghdad where the Ministry of Information and television station are situated. It was not immediately clear whether they were directly hit, but a U.S. official in Washington said the TV station and satellite communications had been targeted by bombs and cruise missiles.

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Wednesday morning, Iraq’s 24-hour satellite television was showing either a blank screen or sporadic still pictures, suggesting technicians were struggling to bring it back.

Iraq’s domestic television, which has been widely used by the leadership to rally people against the U.S. and British invasion launched last week, normally does not start broadcasting until later in the day.

U.S. Marines who had stormed across the Euphrates River through the southern town of Nassiriya Tuesday moved north again Wednesday, laying down an artillery barrage against Iraqi positions, Reuters correspondent Sean Maguire said from the scene. Officers expected resistance from irregular militia.

Earlier, a Pentagon official said 150 to 300 Iraqi forces were believed killed Tuesday when they attacked the U.S. 7th Cavalry near the town of Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad. There were no U.S. casualties, the official said.

It was the biggest engagement in six days of fighting launched by President Bush and his British allies to oust Saddam and strip Iraq of its alleged weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad denies having any such weapons.

“Apparently ground forces tried to hit some of our guys with rocket-propelled grenades,” the U.S. official said.

“They did damage a couple of pieces of our gear but we’ve had no reports of casualties on our side. But apparently there are some reports that we may have killed quite a few of them,” he said. “Estimates differ. Some say 200 to 300. Some say 150.”

Meanwhile, British chief of staff Major General Peter Wall said there were indications that a revolt might be under way in Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city.

“Keen to capitalize”

“We will be very keen to capitalize on it. We have a duty to reinforce that, but we’ve got to make sure we do that in a sensible way and don’t do anything hotheaded that we might come to regret,” he told reporters.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denied reports of an uprising, which first came from British television reporters near the southern city.

The mainly Shi’ite Muslim people of Basra rose up against Saddam’s Sunni-dominated government after the 1991 Gulf War, but their revolt was rapidly smashed as U.S. forces stood aside.

U.S.-led forces had been hoping the Shi’ite south would welcome their invasion this time around.

Richard Gaisford, a television journalist with Britain’s ITN reporting from just outside Basra, said British forces had bombed and destroyed the ruling Baath Party offices in the city.

Earlier, Col. Chris Vernon, a British military spokesman in Kuwait, told a news conference that British forces arrayed around Basra had attacked precise Iraqi targets during the day and had captured a top official of Saddam’s Baath party there.

With the humanitarian situation in Basra causing mounting concern, British naval officers said they had finally secured Iraq’s only deep-water port of Umm Qasr. A British navy ship was expected to dock by Thursday, bringing the first seaborne aid for thousands of hungry civilians in southern Iraq.

Saddam’s call

South of Baghdad, advancing U.S. columns were slowed Tuesday by blinding sandstorms, which Reuters correspondents said cut visibility to 5 meters (yards) in places. Baghdad was also affected, but the weather there cleared Wednesday.

Rain and wind hit U.S. troops south of Baghdad overnight.

Saddam urged Iraqi tribesmen Tuesday to join the battle against U.S. and British forces and not wait for further orders.

“The enemy has violated your lands, and now they are violating your tribes and families,” the Iraqi leader said in a statement read on his behalf on state television.

The United States said Marines seized more than 200 weapons, stockpiles of ammunition and more than 3,000 chemical suits with masks at an Iraqi hospital it said was being used as a “military staging area.”

U.S. Central Command in Qatar said in a statement that Marines operating in the southern city of Nassiriya captured about 170 Iraqi soldiers at the hospital. They were not armed.

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