Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Allied Chiefs Say We Will Win It Fast; but Hard Core of Iraqi Force Give Stiff Resistance in Battle for Key Town

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Allied Chiefs Say We Will Win It Fast; but Hard Core of Iraqi Force Give Stiff Resistance in Battle for Key Town

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK SAWER

SENIOR British and US commanders today predicted that allied forces could be in Baghdad by Monday.

The claim came after US marines captured a key section of the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.

More than 250 Iraqi troops gave themselves up to US soldiers of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Umm Qasr. The US troops were under British command.

Colonel Steve Cox said that Umm Qasr would give them control of virtually all access to Iraq by sea. Britain's 3 Commando Brigade and Royal Navy ships were part of the coalition forces that launched the assault.

The UK's 7th Armoured Brigade was said to be involved in fierce fighting today. British forces fired 50 Tomahawk missiles at targets in Baghdad.

Tony Blair said the campaign was going well - but warned the public not to expect victory overnight. He called on British forces to give Saddam Hussein no letup and said the UK and its allies would "see this mission through to the end".

There was growing speculation this afternoon that Saddam and one of his sons were killed or injured in the first bombing raids on Baghdad - despite Iraqi denials.

One US official said: "The preponderance of the evidence is he (Saddam) was there when the building blew up."

Marines raised the US flag over Umm Qasr's new port at the culmination of an intense battle. Marines later returned and removed the Stars and Stripes. No reason was given but Washington has consistently stressed that invading US forces want to liberate Iraq, not occupy it.

The allied soldiers had been pinned down in a two-hour firefight and had to call in British artillery fire to clear their path.

US troops this afternoon moved into the huge port area of Umm Qasr, a city the size of Southampton, to hunt for Iraqi soldiers who might be hiding in the site.

A dozen helicopters brought reinforcements.

The old port, about one mile away, remained in Iraqi hands but allied commanders were confident of its inevitable fall.

British commandos, in a seaborne assault, today captured the Al Faw peninsula and took control of key oil installations. …

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