Volume 96, Issue 99
Friday, April 4, 2003

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Iraqi War: roundup

(AP) – The battle for Baghdad reached its international airport yesterday after American forces rolled through a 10-kilometre shooting gallery: a single-lane road on the capital's southern outskirts with Iraqi fighters firing from all sides.

Artillery fire could be heard near Saddam International Airport. Tracer rounds raced through the blackened sky; officers of the United States army's 3rd Infantry Division said the attack on the airport had begun.

Imbedded reporters in the field reported coalition feelers that took troops within 10 km of the city, and U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Anglo-American coalition has "arrived near the regime's doorstep."

For the first time in 14 days of fighting, Baghdad was plunged into darkness. The Pentagon said coalition forces had not targeted the city's electricity grid and could not account for the blackout.

With U.S. troops reportedly knocking at the gates of Baghdad, President George W. Bush said the war's decisive endgame was at hand.

"Having travelled hundreds of miles, we will now go the last 200 yards," Bush told cheering U.S. marines at a base in North Carolina yesterday.

"The course is set. We're on the advance. Our destination is Baghdad and we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory."

A public statement purportedly from President Saddam Hussein exhorted Iraqis to "fight them with your hands," but Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf later claimed U.S. troops were "nowhere near Baghdad."

"They are like a snake moving in the desert," he said. "They have no foothold in Iraq."

The timing and fashion of the assault appeared to be the only issues in question. Street-by-street urban warfare has been the nightmare scenario for American war planners from the outset.

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2002 THE GAZETTE