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U.S.: We will destroy Iraqi troops in our way

Iraq insists coalition 'being defeated on all fronts'

Smoke billows from a building hit Monday during coalition airstrikes in Baghdad.
Smoke billows from a building hit Monday during coalition airstrikes in Baghdad.

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The U.S. Air Force 332nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron moves into an Iraqi airfield.
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CNN's Walter Rodgers, embedded with the U.S. 3-7th Cavalry, reports from the front lines.
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PENTAGON MILITARY BRIEFING, MONDAY
Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Joint Chiefs of Staff

• Since Friday, some 3,000 precision-guided bombs have been dropped, mostly against Medina, Hammurabi, Baghdad and al Nida divisions of Republican Guard.

• Coalition forces have not yet located any chemical or biological weapons, but fear those weapons will be used as "the core" of Saddam's regime if threatened.

• Family members of "very senior officials" of the Iraqi government are trying to flee Iraq.
IRAQI NEWS BRIEFING, MONDAY
Naji Sabri, Iraqi foreign minister

• The coalition wants to exploit Iraq for its natural resources.

• The United States and Britain are "outlaws" that are in a "quagmire of death."

• Iraqi diplomats are working with Arab groups, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Conference, and seek to have the U.N. Security Council demand a halt to the coalition "aggression."
SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

(CNN) -- A relentless air assault on Iraqi positions by coalition aircraft continued Monday, targeting Republican Guard divisions defending Baghdad, the headquarters of the Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary group and a presidential compound on the southwest edge of the Iraqi capital.

More than 3,000 precision-guided munitions have been dropped in the past three days alone, bringing the total to 8,000 for the entire 12 days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Pentagon said Monday.

Officials made it clear that the bulk of those bombs were aimed at the elite Republican Guard.

There are maneuvers under way "to try to destroy the divisions that stand in our way," said Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Apache pilot's account of combat)

The guard's Medina division, massed south of Baghdad, and the Hammurabi division, north of the city, have been targeted by "tremendous sorties," said McChrystal at a Pentagon briefing. He said two other divisions have also been targeted, and that initial assessments show that the Medina division's strength may have been cut in half.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the Iraqi people must be wondering where their leaders are.

"Since the coalition bombed Saddam's headquarters at the very beginning of the war, the world has neither seen his hide nor hair, only tapes. We've not seen his sons," said Victoria Clarke, adding, "We have seen evidence that family members are fleeing the country, or trying to flee the country."

Airfield, troops fall into coalition hands

Sporadic but intense air attacks continued Monday near the northern city of Mosul, prompting 13 Iraqi soldiers to abandon their posts and surrender to Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, said about 1,000 Iraqi soldiers have surrendered so far along the northern front line separating Kurdish areas from those controlled by the Iraqi regime.

Elements of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division seized an airfield on the outskirts of Najaf Monday. The strip will be used by military transport planes, once it is cleared of mines, military officials said.

At a checkpoint near Najaf Monday, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division fired on a van that turned out to be carrying women and children when it failed to stop. Seven passengers were killed and two were wounded, Central Command said Monday in a written statement. (Full story)

Najaf is where a suicide car bomber killed four soldiers last week.

Fighting also continued around the cities of Nasiriya and Samaway, where U.S. officials said 50 Iraqi soldiers and 100 members of a paramilitary group were captured.

Around the central Iraqi city of Karbala, scores of Republican Guard soldiers have surrendered to U.S. forces, a U.S. military official said. The official said that nearly 50 percent of the Medina Division's tanks had been destroyed.

Additional Republican Guard forces are moving to the region from north of Karbala, U.S. officials said, as elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division gather intelligence and periodically engage Iraqi units. (Devil of a fight)

British forces said they've secured the western part of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, where Iraqi paramilitary forces have been battling coalition troops for the past week.

Meanwhile, Republican Guard fighters holed up in Hilla are apparently trying to bait U.S. forces into urban combat, according to CNN's Walter Rodgers, who is embedded with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Infantry Division. (Iraqis press for urban warfare)

Iraq claims coalition 'being defeated on all fronts'

Contradicting coalition reports, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Monday said the U.S.-led coalition is being "defeated on all fronts and [is] retreating in the face of strong strikes." (Full story)

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said Monday that Iraqi troops in recent days have killed about 43 American and British "mercenaries" and destroyed 13 tanks, eight armored personnel carriers, four Apace helicopters and two Predator drones.

U.S. military officials in Washington said they could not substantiate the Iraqi claims, and that there have been no reports of Apaches being shot down.

Sahaf also accused U.S. and British troops of killing Iraqi civilians, an action he called "racist."

But Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, at a Central Command news conference in Qatar, said, "No one's killing more Iraqis right now than the [Iraqi] regime."

Other developments

• President Bush said Monday coalition forces are "moving closer to victory" in Iraq, but warned the "dying regime" of Saddam Hussein might try to "bring terror to our shores." The president was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to pay tribute to the U.S. Coast Guard. (Full story)

• The Syrian government said Monday that it "has chosen to align itself with the brotherly Iraqi people who are facing an illegal and unjustified invasion and against whom are being committed all sorts of crimes against humanity." (Full story)

• Four U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed Thursday when the driver of their M1A1 tank was shot as they crossed a bridge and the tank then plunged into the river below, U.S. Central Command said Monday. Their bodies and the tank were recovered Sunday.

• U.S. Marines staged early raids Monday in southern Iraq looking for Iraqi Gen. Ali Hassan al Majeed, Saddam Hussein's cousin, a military source said. Al Majeed, commander of Iraqi forces in the south, is widely known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering the use of chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds in 1988. (Full story)

• An International Committee of the Red Cross team interviewed about 100 captured Iraqi troops Monday at an undisclosed location in southern Iraq, the agency said, the first such meeting since the war began.

• Turkish forces do not plan to enter northern Iraq, U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Monday. Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel this week to Turkey and NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, a State Department official said.

• Iraqi forces Monday tried to push women and children onto a bridge between Hilla and Karbala that the forces had rigged with explosives, shooting a woman who tried to escape, Brooks said at Central Command. Coalition officials have accused the Iraqi regime of using civilians as human shields, a tactic Iraq denies.

• Clean water began flowing Monday from Kuwait to the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr through a pipeline that will provide some 600,000 gallons of fresh water a day, Brooks said. Iraqi forces had cut off water supplies to the city. (Massive food appeal)

CNN Correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jane Arraf, Bob Franken, Art Harris, Tom Mintier, Walter Rodgers and Nic Robertson and Producer Mike Mount contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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