Friday 28 March 2003

Bombs Pound Baghdad, Iraqis Still Defiant

Bombs and missiles crashed into Baghdad again on Friday as the United States kept up a relentless bombardment, but a defiant Iraq promised "living hell" for the Americans and their British allies.

U.S. and British leaders told their people the war to topple President Saddam Hussein would be won whatever the difficulties, but acknowledged it might take time.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said overnight raids on the capital had killed seven civilians and wounded 92. He accused U.S. forces of bombing the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Najaf, killing 26 civilians and wounding 60.

Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed said on Thursday U.S. and British forces might encircle Baghdad in five to 10 days. "But they have to come into the city eventually...God willing, Baghdad will be impregnable," he declared.

A U.S. officer said earlier that U.S. forces had battled around 1,500 Iraqis overnight near Najaf, 100 miles south of the capital, but had no word on casualties.

Reuters reporter Luke Baker, near Najaf, said U.S. forces had used tanks and heavy artillery. "The battle raged for a few hours. It finished about 3 a.m. (7 p.m. EST Thursday)," Baker said.

Sahaf said Iraqi forces had destroyed 33 tanks and armored vehicles and killed four invaders in the area on Thursday.

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