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31 March 2003

Coalition Forces Continue to Strike Targets Across Iraq

(Central Command Report, March 31: Iraq Operational Update) (570)

Coalition forces have attacked regime targets in Baghdad and several
other cities across the country, as well surface-to-surface missiles
and Iraqi Republican Guard units, says a U.S. Central Command briefing
officer.


Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations
for the U.S. Central Command, said coalition forces have attacked the
Iraqi television service building in Karbala, the Ba'ath Party
headquarters in al-Hillah, a military headquarters and communications
buildings in western Iraq, and supply lines supporting Iraqi forces.

"Coalition special forces destroyed two convoys of vehicles, including
10 tanks," Brooks said during a CENTCOM media briefing March 31 at
Camp As Sayliyah near Doha, Qatar. "We also used Special Operations
(Forces) gunships (AC-130 aircraft) with great effectiveness against
regime targets and also targets of opportunity."

Brooks said British forces fought near al-Basrah to eliminate enemy
positions and succeeded in capturing several hundred enemy prisoners,
and attacked some Iraqi gunboats in a nearby waterway. However, Brooks
said that the situation in Basrah is that "the Iraqi people are still
in some cases under the boot of the regime."

"We are receiving assistance and information from people in Basrah,
and it localizes our attacks very effectively," he said. "We wouldn't
say that Basrah is completely under coalition control, but we continue
to increase the degree of control over top of that."

Brooks said coalition forces have not seen Iraqi aircraft flying
against it because "if they fly, they die."

A number of Iraqi military leaders have been taken under control of
coalition forces, and they are providing useful information and
intelligence, he reported. Coalition targeting of the Iraqi leadership
includes Republican Guard forces, Brooks said.

"We know that they're part of the solid defensive structure of the
regime," he said. "That's what the regime relies on heavily for
traditional military work. And so we're targeting them. And we're
destroying a number of them."

Finally, Brooks said the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force conducted
raids into al-Fajar, south of al-Kut along the Tigris River, where
they captured several Ba'ath Party members, uncovered several large
weapons caches, destroyed Iraqi air defense equipment, and found a
number of enemy documents.

The U.S. Marines found weapons caches in 40 buildings during the
raids, which contained ammunition, chemical decontamination equipment,
chemical protective suits, and unidentified artillery munitions,
Brooks said. A chemical decontamination vehicle was among the vehicles
also uncovered there, he said.

In other operations, CENTCOM reported:

-- Coalition forces struck a group of Iraqi paramilitary forces, who
were attempting to take shelter in an unused prison in the town of Ar
Rutbah in western Iraq about 12:30 a.m. local (2130 GMT, 4:30 p.m.
EST), a CENTCOM statement said. "The paramilitary forces are used by
the regime to maintain control of the population and to oppose
coalition forces," according to a CENTCOM news release. "Battle damage
assessment is ongoing."

-- Coalition aircraft, using precision-guided bombs, struck the
Baghdad Exchange Maidan communications site in the center of the Iraqi
capital at 5 a.m. local (0200 GMT, 9 p.m. EST), according to a CENTCOM
release. The facility was targeted in an effort to disrupt Iraqi
military communications and degrade the regime's ability to
communicate orders to its forces.

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)