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U.S. troops weather sandstorm, cross Euphrates River

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March 25, 2003 Posted: 10:53 PM EST (0353 GMT)
U.S. troops weather sandstorm, cross Euphrates River

A sandstorm that kicked up in southern Iraq on Monday continued to pelt U.S. troops as they moved forward on Tuesday. The storm limited coalition troops' ability to see more than a few feet ahead of themselves, and it largely prevented them from calling in air support from fighter jets or helicopters.

Meanwhile, as the coalition advanced on the southern Iraqi city of Basra, an incident was reported in which the town's citizens rose up against those loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party. British officials had encouraged the civilians to revolt against the loyalists, and the residents of Basra apparently did so after a Baath party leader was captured.

Iraqi soldiers reportedly responded to the civilian uprising by firing mortars at the crowds. Some officials said that coalition troops then fired back at Saddam's loyalists.

Iraqi officials denied reports of the uprising.

CNN's Walter Rodgers, who is embedded with the U.S. Army's 3-7th Cavalry, gave a detailed report of the cavalry's progress as it moved northward through central Iraq in a very strong sandstorm.

•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
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Rodgers compared being in the storm to weathering a blizzard of sand. He added that while the storm hampered the 7th Cavalry's progress, it also provided some military advantages.

Rodgers said the storm gave a sort of smokescreen to U.S. troops as they crossed a bridge over the Euphrates River. As a result, Iraqi forces could not target the cavalry as effectively as they could have under clear conditions.

Rodgers said that the group encountered great resistance as it moved toward the river on Monday night. He described machine gun tracer bullets as being visible on both sides of the road, and he added that every tank in the 7th Cavalry was firing its cannon. He said that the soldiers had no idea at that time that several hundred Iraqi troops were shooting at the convoy.

At the time of Rodgers' report, the cavalry had taken three Iraqi prisoners of war. The Iraqis had been captured as they transported a truckload of weapons.

In the U.S., President Bush repeated on Tuesday that he was certain of a U.S. victory. The president asked Congress to approve a $74.7 billion budget for the war. Bush said that while he did not know how long the conflict would last, he did know the U.S. would prevail.

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