View Full Version : Rumsfeld warns Syria

03-28-03, 06:41 PM

KUWAIT CITY (CNN) -- An explosion struck a shopping mall in the center of Kuwait City early Saturday. Some early reports from Kuwaiti officials indicated the explosion may have been from a missile.

No warning sirens alerted residents. Smoke billowed from the sky afterward. There was no word on deaths or injuries.

About a dozen missiles have been launched from Iraq toward Kuwait in the past week, but most have been knocked out of the sky by Patriot missiles. Two landed in rural areas without causing any injuries.

Earlier, explosions also rocked central Baghdad where it appeared Iraq's Information Ministry may have been hit, and several large blasts were reported in the northern city of Mosul late Friday.

<B>In Washington Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a warning to Syria, saying it would be held accountable for shipments of military equipment -- including night-vision goggles -- that have been moved across the border into Iraq.</B>

The Pentagon does not want "neighboring countries or anyone else" to be assisting the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

"These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments," Rumsfeld said.

In Damascus, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Rumsfeld's claim was "absolutely unfounded." (Full story)

Rumsfeld also warned any country against sending any "military forces, intelligence personnel or proxies" into Iraq that are not under the control of Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of the U.S. Central Command.

The secretary specifically mentioned the Badr Corps, troops "trained, equipped and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard."

Rumsfeld said Badr Corps troops would be considered "combatants" and said the coalition "would hold the Iranian government responsible for their actions."

Screaming Eagles penetrate deep into Iraq
Scores of American soldiers were airlifted deep into Iraq Friday in what was called the longest helicopter-borne assault in military history.

The assault was a "huge inroad" into Iraq, putting "scores" of infantry troops in place, officials told a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel who is with the 159th Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, the famed Screaming Eagles.

As measured by the distance the assault penetrated enemy territory, it was the longest in the history of warfare, assistant division commander Brig. Gen. E.J. Sinclair told reporter Katherine M. Skiba.

An air convoy of 200 Black Hawk, Apache, Chinook and Kiowa helicopters from Kuwait landed at two forward bases, refueling and unloading infantry soldiers each time. Pilots did not report encountering any enemy fire. (Full story)

Earlier Friday, U.S. officials said airstrikes had knocked out one-third of the Iraqi Republican Guard's Medina Division south of Baghdad, and other divisions were moving in from the west and north to reinforce it.

Coalition troops working their way north toward the capital have been engaged in heavy fighting with Iraqi forces -- particularly in the southern cities of Nasiriya and Tikrit. (Full story)

Nasiriya has been the scene of the fiercest fighting U.S. Marines have been involved in since Vietnam, senior Marines told CNN.

Three Marine infantry battalions are in Nasiriya, occupying the northern and southern parts of the city, officials said.

Col. Ron Johnson, Task Force Tarawa operations officer, said the Marines were "very close to controlling Nasiriya and making it secure."

And for the first time since Marines were killed in intense fighting around Nasiriya Sunday, their comrades were able to retrieve seven of their bodies Friday, officials told CNN. (Full story)

Four Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force went missing Friday; another 12 Marines were reported missing Thursday around Nasiriya.

As the weather cleared, U.S. military officials said they learned the coalition's heavy bombing campaign had reduced the Medina Division to about 65 percent of its capacity.

In response, two other units of Iraq's elite Republican Guard were repositioning.

The Hammurabi Division, which was west of Baghdad, was moving south in hopes of reinforcing the Medina, and another division -- which was around Tikrit in the north -- was moving in to replace the Hammurabi, U.S. officials said.

The Republican Guard was working to protect Baghdad from a ground invasion. U.S. officials have said the battles with the Republican Guard will likely be some of the bloodiest of the war.

Civilian casualties reported in Baghdad
Also Friday, Baghdad residents told Arabic television networks the U.S.-led coalition bombed the Baghdad neighborhood of Al Shula, killing more than 50 civilians.

Dr. Hakki Ismail Marzooki, general manager of Al Noor Hospital, said that around 6 p.m. an attack hit Al Shula, a busy neighborhood and marketplace he said had no military targets.

He said the area was filled with "just civilians buying things." (Full story)

There was no immediate comment from coalition officials.

In northern Iraq, U.S.-led airstrikes targeted Iraqi troops along a ridge near a Kurdish-controlled area for a second day, following overnight attacks on the nearby city of Mosul. (Full story)

Northern Iraq is now a hub of activity, with C-130 and C-17 cargo planes delivering U.S. troops, tanks and equipment of the 1st Infantry Division.

The chief of general staff for the British army, Gen. Mike Jackson, told reporters Friday that Iraqi forces are "pinned down" in the southern part of the country.

British forces outside Basra said a militia group fired machine guns and mortars Friday at civilians fleeing Basra over a bridge toward waiting British troops.

CNN reported more than 1,000 men, women and children tried to make it across the bridge from the north, militia-held side to the southern, British-held side.

The civilians scattered in panic. Between 200 and 300 fled back to the north side and the remainder made it safely to the south. Several people were injured. (Full story)

Coalition forces were "inflicting punishing blows" against the paramilitary forces. Special operations aircraft destroyed two paramilitary headquarters overnight, according to Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at a briefing Friday at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar.