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Iraqi missile strike kills 4

Times wire services
Published April 8, 2003

BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - An Iraqi rocket exploded in a headquarters of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division south of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least two soldiers and two journalists and wounding 15 others, one of them gravely. The rocket, thought to be a surface-to-surface missile, struck the tactical operations center of the division's 2nd Brigade.

The strike tore a deep crater in the ground, destroying 17 military vehicles, all of them Humvees and other unarmored vehicles. It was the single most devastating attack by the relatively longer-range missiles that Iraq has sporadically fired since the war began.

Lt. Col. Peter Bayer, operations officer for the 3rd Infantry Division, said it was not clear what type of weapon was used. He said initial indications suggested the missile had been fired from the city of Hillah, which is virtually encircled by U.S. forces but still under control of Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein's government.

"We expect it came from the south and not from the city," he said, referring to Baghdad.

The two soldiers killed were not immediately identified.

The journalists killed were identified as Spaniard Julio Anguita Parrado, 32, of the newspaper El Mundo, and Christian Liebig, 35, who was covering the war for the German news weekly Focus.

Basra

After weeks of surrounding Iraq's second largest city, British troops swept into Basra and were greeted by huge welcoming crowds.

"There are no areas of the city that we are now concerned about," Col. Chris Vernon said at field headquarters. Asked where the Saddam Fedayeen fighters had gone in the previous 24 hours, Vernon replied: "Most of them are dead or taken prisoner."

British soldiers of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment patrolled Basra on foot and secured the city center a day after armored columns cleared the way.

"The last 48 hours have been historic for Basra. After decades under the heel of Saddam's brutal regime, U.K. forces are in the process of delivering liberation to the people of Basra," Air Marshal Brian Burridge told reporters in Qatar.

"There will be some difficult days ahead, but the Baathist regime is finished in Basra."

Hundreds of people poured out to welcome and shake hands with the soldiers. Women in chadors hovered in the background, and soldiers talked and joked with civilians and let some boys look through their gunsights.

The success of the troops saw a brutal response from some civilians. Several militiamen were seen being killed by throngs of civilians, the British news agency Press Association said.

The humanitarian situation remained bleak, with many residents desperate for fresh water.

"All the citizens are very thirsty," said a man who would only identify himself as Ali.

In the north

Coalition warplanes struck Iraqi positions Monday in the fight to advance on the two main northern cities still in Iraqi control: Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk.

U.S. soldiers and Kurdish fighters took the town of Dibagah, near the site of a U.S. friendly fire incident that killed 17 Kurdish fighters and a translator a day earlier.

But Iraqi soldiers still stood between the Kurdish forces and Mosul and Kirkuk.

- Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

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