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Bush outlines progress; more civilian casualties reported

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April 1, 2003 Posted: 12:18 AM EST (0518 GMT)
Bush outlines progress; more civilian casualties reported

The Pentagon said on Monday that more than 3,000 precision-guided weapons had been used to batter Iraqi military positions in the past three days. That brought the total number of such munitions used in Operation Iraqi Freedom to 8,000 by Monday evening.

U.S. officials said some of the latest targets of coalition airstrikes included a presidential palace and the headquarters of the Fedayeen Saddam, an Iraqi paramilitary group. Coalition forces also said they were continuing to target Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard troops.

Meanwhile, Iraqi TV showed video of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and two of his sons on Monday. Though the station claimed the pictures were new, U.S. officials said the video was not convincing and continued to express skepticism about whether Saddam was still alive or in control of his military.

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In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, President Bush delivered a speech to Coast Guard personnel and listed recent coalition victories in Iraq. He said, "In 11 days, coalition forces have taken control of most of western and southern Iraq. In 11 days, we've seized key bridges, opened a northern front...[and] nearly achieved complete air superiority."

On Monday, U.S. soldiers fired on a van when it failed to obey their orders to stop at a military checkpoint in southern Iraq, according to the U.S. Central Command (CentCom). The van was carrying 13 women and children, and seven of the civilians were killed in the shooting. Two others were wounded.

CentCom said the soldiers initially fired shots into the air in an attempt to warn the vehicle's driver to stop. After those shots were ignored, the soldiers reportedly fired into the engine of the vehicle, but CentCom said the van "continued moving toward the checkpoint."

CentCom added, "As a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle." At that time, U.S. forces reportedly could not see into the van. "In light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the soldiers exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life," CentCom said.

The incident followed a suicide car bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers in Iraq on Saturday. Since then, U.S. soldiers have increased security measures around checkpoints in Iraq.

The war of words continued on both sides of the conflict on Monday. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said coalition forces continued "to see brutal acts by the [Iraqi] regime and the forces loyal to it." Meanwhile, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf called coalition troops "racist invaders" and "terrorists from the first order." He added, "They do not deserve anything but death."

Coalition forces allowed Red Cross teams to visit captured Iraqi troops again on Monday. However, Iraq has not yet given the Red Cross access to visit coalition prisoners of war, as required by the Geneva Conventions.

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