- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

CANBERRA, Australia, March 24 (UPI) — Australian troops continued operations against Iraqi targets, killing Iraqi soldiers with airstrikes and shelling artillery, Defense Minister Robert Hill said Monday.

Hill said special forces were on reconnaissance missions, seeking missile launchers. The Special Air Service helped kill a group of Iraqi soldiers.

"They came across what was interpreted as a platoon of Iraqi military, with a number of vehicles and that was taken out with the assistance of an air strike," he said.

He said Australian F/A-18 Hornets continued airstrikes against Iraqi positions and HMAS ANZAC shelled Iraqi artillery. The Australian Broadcasting corp. said it was the first time all the three branches of the armed forces had been involved in a conflict at the same time.

Hill said though Australian soldiers were safe, the battle ahead could become difficult.

"The frontline is now facing up to the Republican Guards who are better trained, better fed and they expect a real fight at that level," he said.

Australia is one of three countries - with the United States and Britain — with troops in the Persian Gulf to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and replace him. There are 250,000 troops in the region, 2,000 of them Australian.

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