NICOSIA Ñ The United States forces are heading toward Basra in the initial stage of a ground
assault as intelligence from Baghdad indicated the central command under Saddam Hussein may be either incapacitated or incommunicado.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested that President Saddam Hussein or his sons might have
been injured or rendered incommunicado by a bombing attack on what he termed
an Iraqi leadership compound in Baghdad on Thursday. Pentagon aides said
Iraqi resistance around Baghdad is lighter and less coordinated than
expected and could reflect the absence of a
central command as military commanders are trying to communicate with U.S.
Heavy Iraqi resistance, however, was reported in battles between U.S.
Marine Corps forces and Iraqi artillery gunners in several areas in southern
Iraq. They included fighting in the city of Umm Qasr and along points near
The target of the U.S. and British forces appeared to be Iraqi oil
fields in the region, dozens of which have already been set ablaze.
Reports from the front indicated a slow and deliberate allied advance
into southern Iraq from Kuwait. U.S. officials said the advance Ñ now
reported at 150 kilometers into Iraq Ñ reflects the hope that Iraqi
generals will overthrow the Saddam regime before any ground assault on
"Any war plan has flexibility built into it,"
Rumsfeld said on Thursday. "The minute things start, one has to take account
of the realities that you find in the world. To not do that would be a
At the same time, marginal Iraqi resistance was reported from Basra,
about 130 kilometers from the Kuwaiti border. Arab reports said a senior
Iraqi Republican Guard commander in Basra defected to allied forces.
During the assault on Umm Qasr, a U.S. Marine C-46 helicopter crashed
south of the Iraqi port. All 12 people on board, comprised of the U.S. crew
and British marines, were killed.
U.S. bombers, fighter-jets and cruise missiles also struck targets in
Baghdad. Iraqi gunners fired anti-aircraft artillery and missiles toward the
U.S. officials said the war in Iraq will introduce a range of new
weapons. On Thursday, the Pentagon awarded an $8.8 million contract to
Talley Defense Systems for the production of 6,091 shoulder-launched rockets
for the marines meant to destroy bunkers and armored vehicles.