Euphrates battle may be biggest so far
U.S.: Saddam's command capability knocked out
(CNN) -- U.S. forces killed between 150 to 200 Iraqis Tuesday in a massive battle -- possibly the biggest firefight of the war so far -- in the Euphrates Valley east of Najaf, Pentagon officials said.
According to reports, the fighting about 95 miles south of Baghdad pitted elements of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division against Iraqi foot soldiers firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
Officials said the division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry encountered a large Iraqi ground force, but a sandstorm in the region prevented troops from calling in air cover.
Pentagon officials said there were no immediate reports of U.S. casualties.
It was not clear what Iraqi division was involved in the fighting, officials said. It is known that some elements of the Republican Guard's crack Medina Division were near Karbala, about 40 miles closer to Baghdad.
Officials said the force also could have been a large encampment of President Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary fighters, or even regular army units. (Iraqi military) (Fedayeen)
When asked if those type of irregular or paramilitary forces would be assembled in such a large group, one U.S. official said, "There could be thousands of them out there."
Monday, a 30-strong Apache helicopter group was met with a "wall of gunfire" near Karbala, and several choppers were hit. One Apache went down and the two pilots were taken prisoner by the Iraqis. (Full story)
In Baghdad, several waves of explosions rocked the Iraqi capital overnight and early Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Central Command said a Tomahawk cruise missile struck Iraq's national television building, a key telecom vault and a group of buildings housing Baghdad satellite communications. Iraqi TV lost its signal around 4 a.m.
The strike effectively took away command and control capabilities from Saddam's regime, the command said.
Earlier on Iraqi TV, officials urged Iraqis to fight the coalition forces and Saddam appealed specifically to tribal chiefs to join the resistance.
"Those of you who have been reluctant to fight and waiting for the order, consider this to be the command of faith and jihad and fight them," Saddam said.
A military spokesman claimed on state TV that anti-aircraft batteries shot down coalition missiles and that Iraqi troops forced coalition forces to retreat in desert combat and held off attacks in Basra.
"Our enemies thought they can shock and awe us," the spokesman said. "They are the ones who are in shock and awe."
U.S.: Iraqis use hospital to stage troops
Elsewhere, bloody battles were waged for the third consecutive day in the city of Nasiriya. U.S. officials said some U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians were killed, though they did not say how many. One U.S. Marine was wounded by friendly fire, officials said. (Full story)
U.S. officials said Marines also seized a hospital in Nasiriya and captured nearly 170 Iraqi soldiers who had been staging military operations from the facility -- a move U.S. officials said clearly violates the Geneva Convention.
Marines confiscated over more than 200 weapons, more than 3,000 chemical suits with masks and Iraqi military uniforms in the hospital, and found a T-55 tank in the hospital compound, U.S. Central Command said.
Report of Iraqi uprising
British commanders said a popular uprising against the ruling Baath Party appeared to be under way in Basra.
The commanders, with troops outside Basra, told the British network ITV they had seen groups of 40 to 50 citizens at various locations on the streets and that British forces had taken out an Iraqi mortar firing on the apparent protesters. (Full story)
But Iraqi Information Minister Mohamed Saeed al Sahaf told the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera that no revolt was under way.
The residents of Basra, an important center of Iraq's Shia population and the country's second-largest city, staged an uprising after the Persian Gulf War of 1991. But without backup from coalition forces that had driven Saddam's regime out of Kuwait, hundreds of thousands were killed.
A U.S. official said there were "mixed reports" about a possible civilian uprising in Basra. "It's more like chaos than anything else," the official said.
Food and water for civilians
Coalition forces have begun trucking water from the port city of Umm Qasr, now under British control, to Basra, many of whose residents had been without electricity and water since Friday. (Full story)
The International Red Cross said 40 percent of Basra's water supply had been restored, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart.
Once coalition forces better secure cities north of Umm Qasr, including Basra and Nasiriya, they will start delivering food, Renuart said at U.S. Central Command briefing in Qatar.
Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih accused the coalition of preventing U.N. shipments of food and medicine in the Persian Gulf from reaching civilians.
• The U.N. Security Council plans to meet Wednesday at the request of the Arab League and non-aligned states, some of whom are expected to criticize the U.S.- and British-led invasion of Iraq.
• President Bush saluted coalition forces for their "steady advance" during a speech at the Pentagon where he outlined a $74.7 billion emergency spending request that he called "directly related to winning this war." (Full story, breakdown of costs)
• British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet Wednesday in the United States with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and discuss war strategy with Bush at Camp David, Maryland, sources said. (Full story)
• The U.S. soldier suspected of killing a fellow U.S. soldier and injuring 15 others in a grenade and small arms attack will be taken to Germany to await formal charges after a military magistrate found it "probable" he is guilty, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.
• Friendly fire claimed the lives of two British soldiers Tuesday night when their tank was fired on by another British tank outside Basra, British military officials said. It was the second incident in which British personnel were killed by friendly fire since the war began.
• Forty-three U.S. and British military personnel have been confirmed killed since the conflict began. (Coalition casualties)
CNN correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jason Bellini, Tom Mintier, Karl Penhaul, Nic Robertson, Walter Rodgers, Brent Sadler, Martin Savidge, Kevin Sites, Barbara Starr and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.
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