Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

First Details of Tyrant's Fortress beneath the City; War on Iraq

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

First Details of Tyrant's Fortress beneath the City; War on Iraq

Article excerpt


SADDAM HUSSEIN has taken to his network of deep underground shelters to co-ordinate a bloody last-ditch defence of Baghdad. He is preparing thousands of his men to face the American and British troops in street-to-street fighting for control of the city, US intelligence said today.

The man who built Saddam's chief bunker beneath a Baghdad palace says it will take 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles landing one after the other at exactly the same spot to penetrate the steel and concrete of the labyrinth.

But US intelligence now says Saddam is very much in charge of the defence of Baghdad, where trenches are being dug and troops and ordinary citizens are preparing for bitter street fighting, turning the city into another Stalingrad. Satellite photos are now picking up large groupings of forces.

Militia and guerrillas inside the city are equipped with Soviet weapons such as the SA2 shoulder-fired missile, 85 and 100mm anti-aircraft artillery and low-tech T55 tanks.

The tanks are expected to be placed at street junctions to hit the American Abrams tank where its armour plating is thinnest, causing a pileup of vehicles, stopping the advancing coalition troops in their tracks.

"This type of dirty fighting, which the Iraqis will certainly engage in once the battle for Baghdad begins, is like Somalia times one hundred," said Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Tanks may be a liability for US and British forces in Baghdad. They are difficult to manoeuvre in the narrow alleys and because they cannot raise their guns more than 20 degrees, are unable to shoot back at anyone firing from the upper floors of buildings.

US hopes that the first night of bombing would kill Saddam also appear to be unfounded. Analysis of Saddam's speeches on Iraqi TV show they were taped quite soon before each broadcast, eliminating the possibility that they were made before the start of the war.

The latest intelligence reports contradict claims made by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld soon after the war started that Saddam's regime was crumbling. Iraqi leaders have been explicit in their desire to suck Anglo-American forces into street fighting in the hope of neutralising their superior technology. …

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