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All eyes on Baghdad, but battles rage elsewhere

BASRA: An airstrike hits the house of one of Hussein's most-feared henchmen, who U.S. forces believe was home at the time.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2003

BASRA, Iraq -- Coalition aircraft on Saturday struck the villa of an Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering a poison gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds in 1988.

Allied officials said the general -- Saddam Hussein's cousin -- was believed to be home at the time, but it was not known whether he was killed or wounded.

Two coalition aircraft used laser-guided munitions to attack Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid's home. An evaluation of the mission was under way, said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart said officials believe al-Majid had been in the hospital where Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch had been held captive. But on the night military commandos rescued her last week, the general was not there, Renuart said.

Also in Basra, British troops raided villages surrounding the city early Saturday and apprehended 14 people considered to be key Baath Party and militia leaders who had been intimidating residents and forcing them to remain loyal to Hussein.

Capt. Nader Anabtawi, commander of the Milan platoon of the First Fusiliers, said the arrests Saturday morning "were designed to send a very, very clear message," which was, he said, that the British forces on the ground "will be here for some time."

"We're confident we got the right people," Anabtawi said. "There are one or two others still causing a bit of harassment and still trying to impose their wants on the local population."

The 14 suspects, seen being transported in the back of British military trucks with canvas hoods over their heads, were being interrogated, Anabtawi said. He said all 14 had been pointed out by local Iraqis.

SUWAYRAH: Republican Guard foxholes, bunkers and tanks lie empty; U.S. soldiers seize a division's headquarters.

SUWAYRAH, Iraq -- U.S. Army soldiers Saturday captured the headquarters of the Republican Guard's Medina Division in this town about 35 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Two tank companies and an infantry company of the 3rd Infantry Division rolled through the headquarters unopposed and quickly took over the base. It appeared the Republican Guard defenses had completely collapsed.

Outside the base on a 3-mile stretch of road were hundreds of bunkers and foxholes and dozens of artillery pieces, antiaircraft guns, tanks, and armored personnel carriers.

All of them had been abandoned by Iraqi troops. No troops could be seen.

The tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles used their main guns to destroy the military vehicles along the route.

When U.S. troops pulled into Suwaryah, the Republican Guard artillery pieces were sandwiched between civilian homes and business. Hundreds of young men in civilian clothes stood on the side of the road waving as U.S. troops drove by.

"Look at all the Republican Guard waving at us," Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings of Sarasota, quipped to his company commander, Capt. Chris Carter of Watkinsville, Ga.

"I bet they had their civilian clothes with them," replied Carter, commander of A Company, 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The Medina division headquarters was heavily damaged by U.S. airstrikes before the attack company's arrival. Most of the rooms had been cleaned out and the parking lot for the officers was empty.

In front of one division's office building was a mosaic of a smiling President Saddam Hussein in full military uniform. Standing in front of it, Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp, commander of the 4th Battalion 64th Armor Regiment, said with a smile: "We have their division headquarters. They're done."

Inside the general's office, troops found the general's flag and photos of other senior officers. Inside another office, someone had set up a calendar, patiently marking off the dates until March 10.

There also was a memo with an elaborate border around it with instructions on how to deal with the U.S. attack. The first instruction was "don't panic, don't act stupidly."

-- Information from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.

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