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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Reporters' Log: War in Iraq
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The BBC's unrivalled team of correspondents is bringing you news from the Gulf and reaction from around the world. On this page BBC News Online logs their impressions and personal experiences as they watch events unfold.

Wednesday, 2 April

Most recent postings are at the top.

Palestine, West Virginia :: Nick Bryant :: 2200GMT

In this remote mountain community the shops had run out of yellow ribbon but the people hadn't run out of hope.

There is great celebration at the news that 19-year-old Jessica Lynch, who had been missing in action in Iraq for more than a week, was rescued late last night.

When we arrived early this morning, outside her parents white wood-slat house amidst the trees, it was festooned with yellow ribbons and besieged by reporters.

In a field opposite there was a shaggy horse, a ramshackle barn, a corrugated iron mobile home and millions of dollars of the latest satellite technology to beam this happy scene around the world.

There is a huge party here planned for when Jessica comes home. We don't know when that will be yet, she's currently in Germany receiving medical care.

Northern Iraq:: John Simpson :: 2125GMT

(Commenting on news that cameraman Kaveh Golestan, working for the BBC in northern Iraq has been killed after stepping on a landmine).

Kaveh Golestan was a gentleman, a filmmaker, a man who worked with great sensitivity, he was an artist in film.

I first met him in 1988 at Halabja, soon after we were allowed in to film Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds there. He was such a gentle courteous man.

British television news has suffered appalling losses during this conflict - Terry Lloyd, Gaby Rado, a camerman from ABC, a translator working with Terry Lloyd, that number of people to lose in 14 days is a terrible loss and it's going to be very difficult to get over that.

Qatar :: Nicholas Witchell :: 2106GMT

"It's looking pretty good" is how one senior officer put it to me tonight. There is a renewed sense of momentum and confidence here tonight.

But the fact is that so far the coalition has been fighting its kind of war - engagements in which the combined land and air power of the coalition should be able to overwhelm those Iraqi units.

But when they reach the urban outskirts of Baghdad they then face the potential for an unconventional war.

The Iraqi's after all have had a long time to prepare for this and they've always said their strategy would be to draw the coalition into an urban conflict.

No doubt both sides believe they have surprises up their sleeves.

Central Iraq :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1936GMT

There is a sense amongst the troops here that they have had a very good day.

From where I am, the glow in the sky is the glow of the lights of the capital. The troops here do feel a sense of momentum but they also recognise that the toughest battles may still lie just up the road.

We understand that there are some troops within 20 miles of the capital.

What is still not clear, is what are they going to do when they get to the outskirts of the capital, particularly if the regime does not fold or collapse.

Nasiriyah :: Andrew North :: 1851GMT

Doctors at the hospital in Nasiriyah are saying they've had 250 deaths since the fighting started most of which are civilian deaths related to US bombing.

They say all military people are treated elsewhere.

It seems as though the Marines are getting to grips with the city. I was able to drive around most of it today. There now seems to be a cautious welcome. But they are still receiving some sporadic fire from militia forces who are apparently operating in the town.

In response to the casualty figures the Marines are saying it is inevitable because of the way the Iraqi militia has fought.

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 1716GMT

I managed to get out today after a huge overnight bombardment - a massive telecommunications centre is completely missing.

I heard the blast last night from my hotel. The doors were shaking the windows were rattling. We must remind ourselves this is a 24 hour bombardment of the Iraqi capital.

But Baghdad is still an open city. I've travelled north, east, south, west and there are no tanks, no major checkpoints, no curfew. So where are the defenders?

My guess is they have been secreted into the city in small units. This is not going to be a large conventional army sitting on the edges of Baghdad waiting to be picked off by Apache helicopters.

I find it extraordinary to believe that would be the Iraqi tactic.

South of Baghdad :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1710GMT

Last night there were some concerns that the intelligence may not be good and that the resistance would be much stiffer than the US troops actually found.

Although they believe they've effectively beaten the Medina division of the Republican Guards, there is some mystery as to whether the Medina troops just faded away, whether some of them are still hiding in the city of Karbala or if others were not deployed in the first place.

There are still grave questions as to whether the fiercest fighting lies ahead over the next few days.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1659GMT

The Iraqi authorities have denied the successes claimed by coalition forces as they advance to within 30 kilometres of Baghdad.

An Iraqi military spokesman said the Baghdad division of the Republican Guard had not been destroyed near Kut as reported.

The information minister said there had been no crossing of the River Tigris.

Nasiriya :: Andrew North :: 1647GMT

Doctors say they've treated over a thousand people, injured by the bombing of the city. I was able to look round a lot of the hospital. The people I was talking to, while they were angry about the bombing, they were saying they would like the Americans to come in and take control.

CentCom, Qatar :: Michael Voss :: 1623GMT

Coalition forces are now reported to be within 30 kilometres of Baghdad. But Brigadier General Vince Brookes has cautioned against being overoptimistic.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 1613GMT

American soldiers and Marines are seeking to engage the Republican Guard on three fronts, both from the air and the ground. In order to do that, they have to cross the country's two main rivers, the Euphrates in the west, and the Tigris in the east.

Reports suggest the army is now moving across the Euphrates. But the Marines have yet to cross the Tigris, despite the fact that they have secured one of the key bridges over it.

Doha, Qatar :: Nicholas Witchell :: 1531GMT

There's a better sense of assurance in Central Command and we've reported on it for the past 48 hours or so. But we need to be wary of becoming over confident.

Only one division of the Republican Guard has so far, they say, been destroyed at this point and there are four or more ranged against them.

We have a situation in which they are certainly moving forward, meeting less resistance than they had expected in some areas.

But the crucial question is the Iraqi strategy. We've always been led to believe that they would fall back and make their stand in the urban outskirts of Baghdad.

Southern Iraq :: Caroline Wyatt :: 1425GMT

The British are still encircling Basra on three sides. They are exchanging artillery fire after they came under attack this morning.

Three mortar rounds were fire by the Iraqis from the outskirts of Basra. They responded using Challenger 2 tanks.

The British are still being patient we are told, waiting and gradually whittling down the resistance in sight. So no dramatic push on this front today.

Washington :: Philippa Thomas :: 1403GMT

Every headline and every morning show here is talking about the rescue of Jessica Lynch. It's a rare good news story in a week when there's been a lot of talk of set backs.

It's a very all-American tale of a teenage soldier who'd never left the United States before she went to the Middle East three weeks ago.

She comes from a small farming community in the state of West Virginia called Palestine where yellow ribbons were put up around her community in honour of her. She had written home before her capture to say that when she came home from the Gulf she wanted to become a teacher.

Last night they had fireworks and celebrations in her home town - this one small success story has really hit the headlines here.

Umm Qasr :: Jon Sopel :: 1347GMT

What you see in Umm Qasr now are groups of children coming to Royal Marine troops and wanting to muck around! They are trying to play children's games of cat and mouse, and keep jumping on the backs of the lorries that deliver food supplies.

After the initial stage when British soldiers - now out of their Kevlar helmets and flak jackets, and patrolling in berets - were trying to make friends with the children to win their hearts and minds, now the children are driving the soldiers mad with their constant demands for chocolates and sweets!

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 1335GMT

Just occasionally you get to lift the lid on this restricted society - and talk to real people about why the uprisings against Saddam Hussein that coalition forces expected didn't happen.

I had an opportunity to talk to some ordinary Iraqis who were out shopping. I asked one man if the Iraqi people thought of this as a war of liberation.

He told me, "People in the west need to understand that if even if people here are anti-Saddam, that does not equal pro-American or British." This man was not even a Baath party member, but he said, "I'm an Iraqi, and all I know is my country is being attacked. Why do you expect me to celebrate?"

People here do not see it as a war against the regime, they see it as a war against Iraq.

Abu al Khasib :: Clive Myrie :: 1315GMT

I've been to a police station in this town in southern Iraq where Saddam Hussein's dreaded internal security police were based. Royal Marines from Alpha Company 40 Commando went inside the station, looking for clues about local militia groups.

Weapons are found, also maps and documents. And downstairs, there were cells. One was barely 4 x 8 feet with no windows and a filthy pillow and mattress. In other rooms hooks hung from the ceiling.

One room was bare but for two old tyres and an electricity cable. We were later told a torturer might use the tyres to stand on while water is poured on the floor and the prisoner electrocuted.

We later found one man, who did not want to be identified, who gave up some of the secrets of the police station.

He said there was a tariff system, if you committed a crime, but paid enough money you wouldn't be tortured. For stealing about £1000 for murder almost twice that. He said prisoners were blindfolded, tied up, hung from the hooks in the ceiling and beaten.

Just after we left the police station some Iraqis looted the building. It was a place many feared until now.

Nasiriya :: Andrew North :: 1232GMT

I've just arrived at the Saddam hospital in central Nasiriya, where doctors are saying that they've registered almost 250 deaths since the fighting in the city started.

They say almost all of them are as a result of American bombing, and most are civilians. The doctors say many schools and homes have been hit which were near military targets in the city, and that they have treated more than 1000 injuries.

This is the largest hospital in Nasiriya, and where the US army solider Jessica Lynch was found earlier today by US Special Forces. I've been told she was being treated by the hospital staff, and when the US Special Forces came, they the doctors led the soldiers to her in her bed.

Kuwait City :: Allan Little :: 1159GMT

There's something surreal about breakfast in the five-star splendour of the Kuwait Hilton. US military people take their seats beside Iraqi dissidents funded by the CIA. Quiet brooding groups of men who hope to form the first post-Saddam government.

It is a hothouse of rumour and speculation. Everybody watches TV twenty-four hours a day.

Umm Qasr :: Ryan Dilley :: 1130GMT

The Iraqi workers at the port of Umm Qasr have once again begun to report for duty. Many are still afraid to talk about the war and its possible outcomes or even say whether they are happy that British forces now control the south of their country. "I don't want to talk about Saddam," said one worker. "He's still the ruler of this country."

After being reassured that neither his name nor picture would be published, another worker did admit to be jubilant at the prospect of Saddam Hussein being unseated. "If the Americans and British install a leader from among the Iraqi people, then the war is a success. But if they stay and take things from Iraq, then I as an Iraqi cannot agree with them."

Tensions are decreasing in this town since my last visit a week ago. There are more townspeople on the streets and many of the British troops based here have traded their helmets for soft caps and berets, and some are not wearing their body armour.

Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 1111GMT

I'm right down with Kurdish troops in a small village which they've just captured off the Iraqis. There was a fifteen minute gun battle, then the Iraqis ran for it.

All sorts of interesting things that we found here. In one of the bunkers we discovered the instructions to the Chemical Warfare Officer of the group, whose job it was to train the soldiers in the use of chemical weapons.

At the moment they've just captured ten or fifteen prisoners in a fierce firefight.

CentCom, Qatar :: Michael Voss :: 1045GMT

US troops fighting for control of the holy Shiite city of Najaf are reported to have come under fire from Iraqi forces who've positioned themselves inside the Ali mosque. This is where the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali is buried and is one of the most important religious shrines in the world for Shiia muslims.

According to a statement issued at central command, Coalition forces are refusing to return fire. CentCom described this as another example of the Iraqi regime placing sacred sites at risk.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1025GMT

We're in a Shiite house in Baghdad; it's just been bombed. Doors are blown off their hinges, there's blood on the floor, broken glass is everywhere.

The family matriarch has been killed, leaving behind twenty children. But one of her daughters tells us "we don't care this has happened to us, we care only for the life of our president".

Cairo :: David Bamford :: 0957GMT

People on the streets, Nasserite socialists, Islamists, pro-government politicians and President Mubarak, find themselves broadly united in their rejection of the American and British justification of the war.

Things looked shakier two weeks ago when street demonstrations degenerated into violence with police. But now the government is talking to the protest organisers; even banned Islamic organisations whose leaders they have tended to throw into prison, as they seek to make sure the growing anger at the war in Iraq does not prompt political instability here.

Ankara :: Jonny Dymond :: 0921GMT

Turkey and the US are two countries really at odds with each other over military plans for the region. There is a short term aim which is to reinforce the message from the US that Turkey should not go into northern Iraq, something which Turkey has threatened to do.

But there's also a longer term aim to try and get the relationship between Turkey and the US back on track. These countries are both going to be major regional players immediately after the war ends. Turkey needs the US economically, strategically, and the US needs Turkey as an example of a moderate, Muslim, secular democracy.

BBC Monitoring Unit, Caversham :: Mike Baker :: 0852 GMT

Iraqi television is still broadcasting, but the Iraqis don't get much information from it. Today we've been seeing pictures of singers over and over again - a short fat man in a grey tunic leading a group of wooden soldiers.

Interesting contrast to the pan-Arab satellite services which are showing live pictures from Baghdad.

The Iraqi TV reports give no clues as to the military casualties they are suffering. They do talk about enemy soldiers being killed, but not a single report of their own soldiers.

However, they do list their civilian casualties. In a sense it's quite crude propaganda - of course there propaganda going on everywhere - but it's particularly crude on Iraqi television.

US CentCom, Qatar :: Paul Adams :: 0823 GMT

I am told to expect very dramatic developments in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The next two days will be utterly decisive. It will determine how long this war will last it, and I it will determine how quickly the Americans get to the edge of Baghdad.

Despite the fact that there's been lots of talk of things getting bogged down and operational pauses, the coalition forces are pretty much on their plan.

They got to where they want to be pretty quickly, they've brought up the extra men, some of those men have had a chance to rest for a few days and get ready for this.

Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 0744 GMT

Bombing in central Baghdad was very heavy last night. The vast majority of targets seemed to have been government buildings and telecommunication centres on the other side of the Tigris River.

From my hotel window, half a mile away, I could see several of the main presidential compounds were hit repeatedly. I went to stand on my balcony as the blast waves came in. The windows shook, the curtains were blown in - they were heavy explosions.

One of targets I could make out was a compound belonging to of the younger son of Saddam, Qusay. He is in charge not just of key security apparatuses, but also special Republican Guard divisions and he is also charged with the defence of Baghdad. His compound was hit repeatedly.

Southern Iraq :: Caroline Wyatt :: 0726 GMT

I was speaking to a Red Cross representative yesterday who had just come from Basra. He said that the water situation was now not nearly as bad as it had been.

Some 90% of the population now has access to clean drinking water, which is absolutely crucial. There is also food - there are fresh tomatoes available, if people have money they can go out and buy food.

British troops there are trying to talk to the people - trying to get to know them and showing that they can be trusted and that they don't want to hurt civilians. They're hoping they can gain the trust of the people, and thereby enable them to form some kind of resistance themselves to the security forces holding out inside the city.

Outskirts of Basra :: Tim Franks :: 0637 GMT

A few minutes ago we arrived on the outskirts of Basra. A patently nervous young soldier ordered us to stay under cover. British artillery was about to be let loose.

And it was. It hammered into a compound about 150 metres away from me. One thick dull resonating thump after another, followed by clumps of brown and grey dust rising into the air.

The soldiers had come under fire today, and that's why they called in their big guns.

As the barrage began just to my left, a jittery and speeding line of Iraqi vehicles barrelled down the other side of the road. They were trying as fast as they could to leave the fighting behind. One young man stopped to tell us that the bangs had thrown him off his bike.

Outskirts of Basra :: Kylie Morris :: 0631 GMT

I'm at a point just on the outskirts of Basra. Only a few minutes ago we were witness to a heavy artillery barrage - heavy guns being fired into a structure just the other side of the checkpoint.

Just before the barrage of fire though, there was a stream of traffic which passed along this road. It seemed as though people had been waiting on the other side and they were called through on mass by the British forces.

They were speeding along, many of the vans and buses had luggage strapped to the top of their cars, giving the impression at least they were trying to flee the city and taking their belongings with them. Certainly many people were blowing their horns and there was a real sense of panic, and a sense that people were trying to get away from this area as soon as possible.

Baghdad :: Andrew Gilligan :: 0625 GMT

The statement yesterday rallying the people for jihad against the Americans was read out by the Iraqi Information Minister.

We can't rule out that some misfortune has befallen Saddam, and he certainly did look extremely rough when he appeared on TV on that first day of the war when that missile strike was targeted on him. There has been some quite well founded speculation that he was rather closer to the strike than he expected.

But I don't think we should read too much into the fact that he didn't appear on TV on this occasion. I've been coming to Baghdad for three years and it's extremely common for Saddam to have his statements read out by other people, particularly the Information Minister.

I know there's been a lot of wishful thinking in the coalition in all sorts of ways - about revolts in Basra, chemical weapons factories, short marches on Baghdad - and although we shouldn't rule out that something may have happened to Saddam, I hope this isn't yet more wishful thinking.

Central Iraq, near Kabala :: Gavin Hewitt :: 0550 GMT

During the night, we witnessed a relentless bombardment - wave after wave of bombers followed by repeated salvoes from rocket launchers. All aimed at Republican Guard units close to the city of Kabala.

Then during darkness, US forces moved forward. There was some anti aircraft fire, but initial resistance from the Iraqis seemed to be light.

There were periods during the night when there was just no pause from the sound of the bombardment. The whole ground shuddered with the sound of these attacks on positions just up the road.

Large columns of US armour and logistics vehicles are now on the move towards the capital.

Central Iraq :: David Willis :: 0545GMT

The Battle for Baghdad is not far away. Yesterday the US Marines that I'm with completed the journey across the Saddam Canal - a key eastern crossing point. The Marines had received intelligence that the Republican Guards were massing there - and so it proved.

Our convoy became embroiled in a large fire-fight lasting about 45 minutes. The Marines fired cannons and mortars and rockets.

The effect soon became clear. The truck that I was travelling in arrived before the Marines had time to cover the bodies, and I counted half a dozen by the roadside alone.

We're now moving on after another hectic night. We're expected to go head to head with a key unit of the Republican guard.

This will be the decisive chance to learn what Saddam Hussein¿s most loyal forces are all about. They've yet to be fully tested. But perhaps even within the next few hours we'll know a great deal more.

Battle commanders believe that a quick and decisive victory against one unit has sapped the moral of the others, but the concern is that it could prompt their retreat into the city. That would draw American forces into an urban conflict, which they want to avoid.

US CentCom, Qatar :: Paul Adams :: 0525GMT

The big news today - and this is a major development - is that the assault on the Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad has begun in earnest.

This is not about probing any more, this is not about going out and doing reconnaissance missions or skirmishing with the Republican Guard.

We now know an all out assault on those Republican Guard divisions was launched overnight. We have reports of the US Third Infantry Division streaming up past Kabala on both sides, leaving Kabala effectively isolated, moving on to engage those Republican Guard divisions.

The US marines are doing the same further east around the city of Al Kut. We are told the Republican Guard divisions are severely damaged. One was even described as "combat ineffective."

So this is the beginning, potentially, of the end.

Southern Iraq, near Nasiriya :: Adam Mynott :: 0522GMT

The operation to rescue Jessica Lynch looks to have been very sophisticated. The US marines that I'm travelling with set off very shortly after it became dark, in a huge convoy of 30 or 40 vehicles.

Their intended target was a suspected Ba'ath party safe house, somewhere just south of the river Euprhates in Nasiriyah - they were also going to take a bridge near by. This was meticulously timed to coincide with an operation in the north of the town to rescue Jessica from the hospital where she was being held. The hope was that action down near the bridge in the south would draw Iraqi militia down to mount a defence, while the Delta forces went north to rescue her.

They found her in a fairly bad condition. She had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, but she was whisked out very quickly. We're told she's now being looked after and is in a stable condition.

During the course of the last hour news has filtered out - and the Marines have been cheering and punching the air - there's real joy.

Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq :: Jim Muir :: 0340GMT

To the east of where I am, there's been a big operation going on since last Friday to winkle out and crush this group called the Ansar al-Islam, which is a radical Islamic group which had carried out lots of attacks on Kurds.

Yesterday US special forces and the Iraqi Kurds pretty much wrapped that up.

They said several hundred people were killed. They believe quite a few of them were Arabs - not Kurds or Iraqis, but Arabs who had been to Afghanistan, got mixed up with al-Qaeda and so on. They alleged that they were into chemical weapons and things like that.

So a lot going on, but we don't really have yet what the people fighting in the south towards Baghdad want, which is an active northern front trying to push down. That is still shaping up.

Nasiriya, southern Iraq :: Adam Mynott:: 0220GMT

US forces here have confirmed that last night a 19-year-old US servicewoman Jessica Lynch was released from her Iraqi captors during a military operation.

She had been captured on 23 March in a convoy just to the south of Nasiriya as she was serving with 507 Maintenance Company from Texas. A number of her companions were killed in the attack by Iraqi forces.

She is understood to be now in a stable condition in coalition hands, but she has some undisclosed injuries.

I understand that the operation to rescue her was carried out by US special forces, the Delta Force, while US marines launched an attack on a suspected Baath party HQ in Nasiriya shortly before midnight local time to act as a diversion.

Pentagon :: Nick Childs:: 0120GMT

Military sources here are saying there is a major engagement underway involving US ground forces against Republican Guard units, especially the Baghdad and Medina units.

A major push is now underway. This could be the start of the key offensive against Baghdad's southern defences.

There's nothing official in terms of the American prisoner of war that has been rescued.

But all the reports that are emerging suggest it was an army soldier, a female, who was previously listed as missing in action.

The movements of those reporting from Baghdad are restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities. Reporters with the US and British military are restricted in what they can say about precise locations or military plans. Click here for more details.



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