American Reporter Staff
Los Angeles, Calif.
March 23, 2003
COALITION BOMBS BAGHDAD AS U.S. CASUALTIES RISE; U.S. SOLDIER KILLS 1, WOUNDS 13; U.S. PATRIOT MISSILE DOWNS BRITISH PLANE
BAGHDAD, March 23, 2003, 3:20am -- As muezzins called the faithful to prayer in Baghdad this Sunday morning, coalition bombers unloaded their ordnance on a silent, sleeping Baghdad where not even anti-aircraft tracers rose to resist. That was not the case near the southern port city of Basra and inland Nasiriyah, however, an critical "hub" city where war commander Gen. Tommy Franks said caolition forces had suffered "significant" casualties in their rapid march towards Baghdad.
Franks did not offer precises details of coalition losses, but Arab television showed images of at least four captured GIs, including one woman. Iraqi forces were seen gathering civilians for potential use as "human shields," reporters embedded with advancing U.S. troops told the International Herald Tribune. Meanwhile, some Iraqi units had donned civilian clothes to feign surrender, then ambushed U.S. troops, reports said.
Western journalists who were watching from the rooftops of the Iraqi capital described the eerie scene of thunderous explosions competing with the rise and fall of air raid sirens while the call to prayer wafted from the picturesque minarets of the ancient city, now left partly dark by bombs that hit utility stations and power lines.
American television aired tape of lights shining sufficiently to illuminate the shape of major structures on the skyline but radio stations reported that most of the lights were out.
A U.S. Patriot missile shot down a British plane as it returned to Kuwait from a strafing run, U.S. officials indicated.
Meanwhile, at the rear of the American lines a U.S. soldier attacked and killed one wounded at least 13 other soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait with grenades and gunfire as they slept in tents at Camp Pennsylvania there.
A black soldier, who according to the New York Times was a convert to Islam, is being held for questioning. The unit's forward troops are in southern Iraq; some are at the halfway point in their 300-mile trek to Baghdad.
But the mystery that is haunting Iraq and the rest of the world is the absence of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his sons, who have not been visible - at least in verifiably current footage - since a Wednesday morning attack on a compound where the Iraqi leader and perhaps one of sons was reportedly sleeping. Bombs also reportedly hit a second residence where another son was sleeping.
A British newspaper reported that British intelligence sources learned that Hussein, 70, was wounded in the strike of a cruise missile and needed a blood transfusion.
In Washington and elsewhere, rumors persist that the Iraqi dictator was badly wounded or killed by U.S. "bunker-buster" bombs dropped from two F-117 Stealth bombers that briefly appeared over the capital the day before the "shock and awe" campaign began in earnest on Friday morning in Baghdad.
More than 1,500 sorties by F-117s, B-1s, B-2s and A-10s, along with Navy fighter jets, hit the capital and several other key cities Friday morning, leaving much of the country's military infrasstructure badly damaged.
But 101st Airborne troops marching north into Basra and Umm al Qasr, oil-rich cities in the south near the northern Kuwait border, did finally encounter heavy resistance but defeated it in a series of small but decisive battles. At least two U.S. Marines of the First Infantry Division died, one in each of those encounters.
As before, large numbers of Iraqi troops capitulated without a fight, waving white flags of surrender as they walked down the arid, dusty roads toward U.S. troops. At least one general, in command of Iraq's 51st Mechanized Division, surrendered his forces, many of whom had already fled. Meanwhile, troops to the rear of combat lines prepared for what they expect will be a flood of surrendering Iraqis and refugees.
In the United States, antiwar demonstrations grew in size as at least 100,000 marchers jammed Fifth Ave. from 42nd St. to Washington Square. In Hollywood, a substantial demonstration was directed at CNN's coverage of the war at the network's headquarters on Sunset Blvd., while a few blocks away demonstrators were arrested as they periodically blocked the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
Asked if police were prepared for the demands on police resources likely to come tomorrow from the Academy Awards ceremony and antiwar and pro-war demonstrations nearby, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton responded that police will be ready.
"This is good practice," he said, as he stood near Hollywood and Vine in a polo shirt and civilian clothes and watched arrested demonstrators being loaded peacefully into busses for transport to the city jails.
Other demonstrations occurred in Santa Monica, Calif., where protestors aimed their barbs at news cameras covering the International Free Spirit awards show, while in Sacramento, 1,000 protestors jammed a downtown park chanting against the war.
On television, except for Spanish-language stations, the war was absent for the first time. Instead of scenes from Baghdad, networks showed basketball games, historic baseball games, golf tournaments, cooking demonstrations and other trivia after an uninterrupted week of round-the-clock coverage.
On the Spanish-language Telemundo Channel 52 in Los Angeles, the war got continued attention with footage of coalition attacks and demonstrations around the globe, while golf, baketball and baseball dominated network reports.