- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 (UPI) — Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said Friday Iraqi forces repulsed two attacks by coalition troops in Najaf and Muthanna in southern Iraq, forcing them to retreat into the desert while denying any movement in the northern front.

Al-Sahhaf said he feared coalition forces might use weapons of mass destruction against Iraqi forces. The Iraqi official also said the resignation of Richard Perle, a top Pentagon adviser, was a proof the leadership in Washington began to disintegrate.

The Pentagon says though Perle has resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board amid an ethics controversy, he will remain a member of the board.

Al-Sahhaf reaffirmed Umm Qasr was still in Iraqi hands and that an Iraqi woman was leading the resistance there. He counted 75 Iraqi civilians killed and 290 wounded in coalition shelling during the past 24 hours.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, al-Sahhaf said fighting has ended on the two battlefronts of Najaf and Muthanaa in southern Iraq.

"They (coalition forces) retreated and fled back to the desert some 50 kilometers southeast of Najaf," he said, adding that U.S. and British troops suffered many casualties and material damage.

He counted 33 tanks, armored vehicles, mobile bridges and mine sweepers that were destroyed by Saddam's Fedayeen and Baath Party fighters in the battle, including the vehicle of a coalition military commander who was killed along with four other of his men.

He said a "heroic" peasant, Ali Farhoud Mokashar, fired a rocket-propelled grenade and hit a tank while a citizen, identified as Ayed Darheeb, succeeded in shooting a helicopter in the village of al-Aneed, the last village before the desert.

Al-Sahhaf said the U.S.-British forces repeatedly tried to approach Najaf and Koufa but were forced to flee as a result of heavy bombardment by Iraqi forces.

"The attempt to besiege Najaf ended with devastating failure," he said. On the U.S. landing in northern Iraq and reported advance of Kurdish forces towards Kirkuk, he said: "There is nothing there except the criminal U.S. shelling that killed one person and wounded 8 others near Chamchamal. This is distortion and it will not work."

Al-Sahhaf re-affirmed that Umm Qasr "this small city is still in the hands of the Iraqi forces" and coalition forces were only controlling a dock.

"The Umm Qasr trained and armed sons are being led by an Iraqi woman combatant and are carrying out resistance guerrilla operations every day, hitting the U.S. and British forces," he said. He compared the coalition forces to "a snake that entered the house and was caught in a corner" and said" they are controlling nothing."

Referring to U.S. reports that coalition forces found gas masks in an Iraqi post, al-Sahhaf refuted such "lying" claims which meant to hint that Iraqis still have WMD and said "we clarify that these are regular troop's equipment."

Recent television footage showed coalition forces moving into vacated Iraqi positions looking at abandoned gas masks.

Al-Sahhaf expressed fears that the "invading enemy would use everything" and said: "We don't rule out that the U.S. and British aggressor invaders in case of extreme frustration as a result of their defeat… to be hit with hysteria while they possess all kinds of weapons of mass destruction."

"They might commit more stupidities that's why we warn them of this," he said.

Al-Sahhaf lashed out at U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "insane and stupid" for alleging that Iraqis "are cutting of the tongues of people in Baghdad."

"This means that he (Rumsfeld) really lost his nerves but I think he lost his nerves because of Perle's resignation: this Zionist extremist who duped and pushed him into war against Iraq for Zionist ambitions," he said.

"It appears that this blood-sucker gang which called for war and aggression began to disintegrate and the first resignation is the resignation of the Zionist war criminal Richard Perle."

Al-Sahhaf accused the U.S. and British forces of targeting residential areas and government buildings "as if there are no human beings inside and civilians do not go there."

He said the shelling on Baghdad last night killed 7 people and wounded 92 others; in Waset 2 killed and 8 wounded; in Karbala 11 killed and 28 wounded; Missan 2 killed and 12 wounded; in Babel 26 killed and 82 wounded and in Najaf 26 killed and 60 wounded.

He said the total number of casualties in Basra since the war started through Friday morning reached 116 civilians killed and 659 others injured while in Zikar: 23 wounded and 800 wounded. He however did not disclose the Iraqi military casualties.

Coalition officials have previously denied targeting residential areas.

Al-Sahhaf promised to chase the U.S. and British forces and officials as war criminals everywhere and said: "We will teach them lessons that would make humanity get rid of their evils and would make their people chase them"

"They are still committing stupidities," he said, noting that the coalition forces were still avoiding engaging Iraqi resistance.

He said President George W. Bush has become "hysterical" and can't even say how long this war will take. He dismissed U.S. claims that Iraqi soldiers were fighting disguised as civilians, explaining that "hundreds of thousands Iraqi civilians are carrying weapons and defending their country."

He said U.S. and British decision to send more troops into Iraq is an indication that they are confused because of the unexpected fierce Iraqi resistance.

"The land of Iraq will be transformed into hell and this hell will increase," al-Sahhaf said. "We are all on alert and our combat will get better."

(Dalal Saoud in Beirut contributed to this report)


LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide