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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 23:33 GMT
Reporters' Log: War in Iraq
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.

Sunday, 23 March

Most recent postings are at the top.

Washington :: Ian Pannell :: 2327GMT

One expects within 24hrs the pictures of the captured servicemen will be shown on American TV networks.

I don't think it will change people's minds about the war because they are rallying behind the troops. But after the war it may raise problems for the president.

There has been a great deal of anger.


Washington :: Nick Childs :: 2305GMT

The mood has changed quite dramatically here, or it did when news of the prisoners came out.

I think people were upset and angry at the same time.

There is no doubt officials here are saying it has been a difficult day - the most difficult so far.

But they are insisting that they have been expecting this, that this could happen.

Things are still pretty much on course and going according to plan but at the same time the message has been that the really difficult part is yet to come.


Baghdad :: Andrew Gilligan :: 2204GMT

We've heard intermittent explosions and blasts and a certain amount of fire and smoke.

We have also seen what seems to have been a successful intercept by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.

We saw the missile going up, a mid-air explosion and then the sight of falling debris.

Now we don't know what it hit but shortly afterwards dozens of police and militia came out.

They combed the banks of the Tigris just opposite the hotel and for a second time today they were burning the shrubbery to flush out any downed enemy pilot.

They didn't find one to our knowledge but then they rushed off somewhere else and I don't know what they found there.


Nasiriyah :: Gavin Hewitt :: 21:30GMT

Two interesting things are happening. Firstly, there is no doubt that the resistance the coalition forces encountered in Nasiriyah did surprise them.

I was there this morning, and I can testify. I was on the outskirts of the town to the intensity of the fighting.

But on the other hand, logistically, the Americans think they're getting to where they want to be.

If you look at the great drive through the desert, the amount of equipment that is now less than 100 miles from Baghdad, they say all of that is testimony to them achieving their target.

Yet on the other hand, they are encountering these pockets of resistance.

The Iraqis are fighting fiercely, far more fiercely than they imagined, and I think they do have concerns that if that was to be repeated in Baghdad, then this will turn out to be a much more difficult operation than they had ever imagined.


Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1940GMT

It's still relatively early here in Baghdad but we're already hearing explosions.

Over the past half and hour we saw flashes in the distance lighting up the whole horizon. They were very large explosions but we don't know whether they were bombs or missiles although in the minutes preceding those explosions we did hear the sound of aircraft flying over.

This is an indication of how this conflict in the air is changing - a few nights ago it was only missiles, now we are hearing bombers flying overhead.


Washington :: Justin Webb :: 1918GMT

President Bush said he had been told early this morning that there could be American prisoners.

"If there is somebody captured, and it looks like there may be," he said to reporters at the White House, "I expect those people to be treated humanely.

If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."

Earlier, the American defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, had been shown footage of the prisoners.

He said the pictures were a clear breach of the Geneva Conventions which ban the humiliation of prisoners.

Both President Bush and his defence secretary said the war was going well, though both talked of further difficulties ahead.


Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 1825GMT

A fierce battle has been raging along the frontline in northern Iraq between Iraqi troops and would-be Iraqi defectors.

Watching the battle from a nearby hilltop, it looked as though the Iraqis were firing at the Kurdish troops and their American special forces advisors, whom we know to be close to the Iraqi positions.

I could hear mortars and heavy machine guns, and there was even the red tracer of anti-aircraft guns which seemed to be being used as artillery pieces.

Every now and then, brilliant white flares were fired into the air.

When we went to a Kurdish forward post though, we discovered a very different story.

The commander insisted that the Kurdish side and their American allies hadn't come under attack and hadn't fired a shot.

Instead, he told us, a large group of Iraqi soldiers had tried to defect to the Kurdish side and had been spotted as they headed across to the Kurdish line.

The loyal Iraqi soldiers opened fire and the battle which we saw resulted.


Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1730GMT

At the moment it is quiet here although we heard some anti-aircraft fire a short time ago.

I think that most Iraqis tonight, while they're waiting for the latest round of bombing, are riveted by these pictures of the US service personnel, which are being shown in a continuous loop on Iraqi state television.

All of this has tremendous propaganda value to the Iraqis.


Southern Iraq :: David Willis :: 1646GMT

I'm accompanying a vast convoy of tanks, artillery and supply vehicles which is slowly heading north from Basra towards Baghdad.

So far, the reception has been warm.

As we left the main highway north to snake our way across country, local farmers came to the roadside to applaud. 'Bush good, death to Saddam', said one old man, flashing a crooked grin at the heavily armed American visitors.

As the convoy moved on, past a row of stone huts, children dressed in dirty smocks approached begging for food.

Progress has slowed on the dusty side roads, but the convoy rolls on.


Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 1636GMT

Fierce fighting has broken out between Kurdish troops with American support and the Iraqi army on the northern front just south of the city of Erbil.

I'm watching artillery and a great deal of local heavy machine gun fire and it looks as though the Kurdish troops are pushing their way down to two towns in the general direction of Kirkuk, which is at the centre of the main oil fields in Iraq.

We think there has been some bombing of Kirkuk from the air, presumed by American planes.

Just watching now, as flares go arching up into the sky which enabled the Kurdish troops to see where their enemies are.

We've been watching American special forces operating in this area for some days now and it's clear that this is the operation that they were supporting.


Central Command, Qatar :: Michael Voss :: 1630GMT

American troops are moving ever closer to Baghdad and for the first time, they're starting to meet organised and determined Iraqi formations.

There's been a fierce battle for the control of two vital bridges across the Euphrates River near Nasiriyah.

According to eyewitness reports, US forces were confronted by some five hundred Iraqi troops with armour.

There are reports of several Americans killed and up to fifty injured.


Al-Faw, Iraq :: Clive Myrie :: 1515GMT

British Royal Marines here have been involved in some of the heaviest street fighting since the ground war began.

Gunmen loyal to Saddam Hussein attacked British troops in the southern town of Al Faw.

We watched the attack from across the street as numerous shots were fired inside and more grenades were thrown, one of which ignited a gas bottle setting part of the building on fire.

Three marines were injured but are said to be recovering well.

Six Iraqis in the building however were shot dead.

This is the kind of urban warfare no invading army wants to fight.

It took a whole day to tackle less than fifty gunmen in a town with a population of ten thousand. Baghdad is a city of five million.


Washington:: Philippa Thomas :: 1455GMT

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some American soldiers are missing in Iraq. He also confirmed reports of a missing aircraft.

There are claims coming out of Iraq that Prisoners of War have been taken but nothing confirmed as yet.

Given the level of media coverage, this is not just a military war it's a propaganda battle.


Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 1417GMT

About two hours ago there were reports that people had spotted a pilot parachuting down into the heart of Baghdad.

We ran down there, security and police also came down. Speed boats were sent out and there were searches of the reeds on the banks and the bases of the bridges.

There were fairly dramatic scenes here, with huge crowds on the river bank.

It appears that no-one has been found yet, some of the reeds have been set alight to perhaps flush anyone out that was trying to hide there. So far there is no confirmation that the authorities have found anyone.

You can hear police sirens I the background. I'm sure there is going to be a really intensive search to find any pilots lost over Baghdad.


Southern Iraq :: Gavin Hewitt :: 1350GMT

We are currently travelling on a road north of Nasiriyah in an armoured column passing through towns and villages and people have been coming out to line the route, especially the young people have been waving, some have been jumping up and down.

Some of the kids have been using the English word water, water and occasionally American troops will throw out a plastic bottle with water in it. One or two other places are being more reserved.

Occasionally you can see someone looking solemn, but just a few minutes ago I saw as we passed a cluster of buildings a little bit off the main road, kids just running across the fields waving.

The reaction seems to have been very positive, certainly along this stretch of road to this column of American armour which is heading along a road towards Baghdad.


Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1325GMT

We can see white smoke billowing in the distance which I suspect is from fires which are being set along the Tigris to try and flush out a suspected downed pilot.

The Kalashnikov fire we can hear in the distance is for the same purpose.

There has been a reward posted by President Saddam Hussein of about $33,000 for capturing a live pilot or live British or American soldier, the reward is just half that for a dead one.

This is a country where the average wage is about $30 a month, it is a huge amount of money and there will be tremendous propaganda value in displaying a captured pilot on the television.


Umm Qasr, Southern Iraq :: Adam Mynott :: 1320GMT

It's all quiet in the area I'm in now.

I'm close to where a long fire-fight happened this morning which eventually ended when the US marines called in air support and bombs were dropped on two buildings which may have been housing up to 120 members of the Republican Guard.

That building is being investigated but elsewhere in the town its still very much a mixed picture.

There are still pockets of resistance it's thought, Iraqis, some of whom have donned civilian clothing, are launching sporadic attacks on troops as they scour through the city trying to clear out that remaining resistance.

More weapons have been found - a battery of artillery was discovered on an island close to Umm Qasr.

The suggestion that was being made in the planning of this operation - that this may take a day or a few hours to sort our have proved to be very wrong - this is proving to be a major thorn in the coalition's side and indeed something of an embarrassment.


Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 1230GMT

We're still waiting for any sign that the Americans are going to open up a second front here.

There are all sorts of rumour and expectations.

Last night the Kurdish troops were all ready to go on the expectation that there would be landings and that they would be heading into Saddam Hussein's heart of Iraq but that didn't happen.

In the meantime various smaller incidents happen.

Just a short time ago a camera crew was filming the Iraqi front line when a mortar round was fired just close to them.

Whether it was intended to hit them or just to scare them, it's difficult to say.


Northern Kuwait :: Hilary Andersson :: 1220GMT

Morale is still high but there has been quite a lot of fighting that a lot of people hadn't expected and it is all getting fairly messy.

I think a lot of the soldiers are getting quite exhausted, some of them haven't had that much sleep.

They've been engaged in quite serious fighting in Umm Qasr in the south. It is the first town that western forces tried to take and they still haven't got complete control of it and they have been drawn into street fighting


Southern Iraq :: Andrew North :: 1044GMT

Commanders of a US marine unit trying to secure a route through the town of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq say they have taken control of a bridge over the River Euphrates. This appears to be an extremely fast-moving but vicious battle.

Senior officers with Task Force Taruwa say frontline marine units are now in Nasiriyah, aiming to take a second bridge over a canal, but they have faced heavy resistance from what the marines estimate are at least 500 Iraqis using tanks and artillery as well as small arms and mortars.

Task Force Taruwa commanders called in air support in response. It is the wild west out there commented one senior officer with the unit.


Southern Iraq :: David Willis :: 1020GMT

We're more than 100 miles north of the border into Iraq. US Marines have virtually commandeered the three lane highways, running both north and south.

I can't describe how vast this convoy is, hundreds of vehicles, all types of vehicles.

The marines have been stopping civilian vehicles to search them, there have been very few, a couple of buses and a few donkeys is about all we've seen.

There are also some abandoned vehicles, one which had been attacked and was blackened and charred.


HMS Ark Royal :: Matthew Price :: 1005GMT

A special service has been held onboard HMS Ark Royal to commemorate the deaths of Royal Navy airmen killed in action on Saturday.

In Ark Royal's hangar the ship's crew assembled. The band at the front, one chair empty. The colours of 849 Squadron draped over the place where their friend and colleague once sat.

He was one of seven Royal Navy airmen killed while in action against Iraq.

The ship's captain Alan Massey addressed the ship. What sense are we to make of this he asked.

In answer, he said these men died in fully-fledged combat operations, pursuing a just cause.


Southern Iraq :: Andrew North :: 0902GMT

Several thousand marines are encountering what marine officers here describe as significant resistance as they approach the outskirts of Nasiriyah.

They say they have come under attack from Iraqi tanks and artillery as well as mortar and machine gun fire.

The marines here have suffered at least four casualties. Commanders have now called in air support in the form of A-10 tank-busting aircraft and helicopter gunships.


Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 0848GMT

The skies over Baghdad are a dark gun metal grey this morning, the Iraqi forces having lit oil fires all around the capital in the hope that the dark haze will confuse incoming missiles and bombers.

People are out on the streets today although with daylight bombing for the first time yesterday, the atmosphere is a little more tense.

The bombing overnight was not as heavy as on Friday evening when some 300 cruise missiles struck the capital, but Iraqi television is reporting that the northern town of Tikrit, birthplace and power base of President Saddam Hussein was also attacked with, it says, the loss of five lives.

Iraqi state television also confirms land battles at Nasiriya on the road from Basra to Baghdad and in the desert outside the holy city of Najaf.


Northern Kuwait :: Caroline Wyatt :: 0842GMT

Talking to commanders here they didn't expect it to be easy, they were expecting some resistance.

What has shocked the most is the incident with the aircraft: the fact that the plane and the crew on that aircraft are missing; that something there went wrong, possibly, in the interface between the humans running these very hi-tech machines and the communications between the British and the Americans.

But they are not dismayed as far as the overall campaign is going - they say it is still going well.


Doha, Qatar :: Peter Hunt :: 0705GMT

This missing plane is potentially yet another tragic incident to have befallen the British military just days into this conflict.

The brief statement issued by Central Command here in Qatar raises many questions and provides few answers.

It's not yet known how many people were on board, where it went missing, whether it was a support or strike aircraft and if it has been the victim of a technical problem or enemy fire.


Umm Qasr :: Adam Mynott :: 0700GMT

One of the two coalition tanks is rolling forward, inching forward with the barrel of its gun pointed towards the suspected Iraqi position.

The commander is guiding them in, giving them grid references and line of sight.

There's more fire from the 50-calibre machine gun, a devastating round of firing from both tanks.

It's quite an awesome and terrifying sight.


Baghdad :: Rageh Omaar :: 0645GMT

The air raid sirens have just gone off followed immediately afterwards by a heavy explosion.

It's the second day that raids have taken place during daylight hours but there is still quite a lot of traffic about. In the street where I am there are a few commercial vehicles, some cars and a bus.

The realisation has dawned on many Iraqis that the bombing is quite accurate.

This morning the Iraqi capital is surrounded by a choking black haze from fires aimed at trying to confuse the British and American war planes which we've heard flying overhead.


Southern Iraq :: Andrew North :: 0620GMT

There are reports that an ambush on a convoy of the US Third Infantry Division was carried out by what the US believe are Iraqi irregulars, not dressed in uniforms and driving around in pick-up trucks.

They are extremely loyal to Saddam Hussein and the Baath party and are in various places picking fights with the US.

So certainly this morning we have a very different view of how secure this southern part of Iraq is.

Literally thousands and thousands of vehicles have now arrived in southern Iraq but it's certainly not the case that it's secure.


Umm Qasr :: Adam Mynott :: 0530GMT

There are pockets of resistance which are preventing US forces from taking full control of this town.

The US Marines have encountered a group of Iraqi soldiers moving positions.

There was incoming fire from the Iraqis and the coalition may well have fired a missile at them.

Now we're on a gas alert, so some sort of shell or device may have been sent in our direction.


Doha :: Steve Kingstone :: 0520GMT

The Pentagon has been denying Iraqi reports that an American aircraft was shot down.

But officials are not entirely clear about the whereabouts or well being of Saddam Hussein.

They said they have no conclusive evidence he is alive and in command of his troops.


Doha, Qatar :: Paul Adams :: 0510GMT

There has been a pretty significant advance in the desert.

We are hearing reports of fighting near Najaf, which if true, would suggest elements of the US 5th Corps are two-thirds of the way to Baghdad.

That would put them on target to reach the Iraqi capital in days.


Northern Iraq :: Jim Muir :: 0353GMT

We've been through a long night of expectation here in the mountains.

We had four very large bombs being dropped by American planes at three in the morning [local time] but nothing like the huge missile attacks of Friday night which resulted in at least 60 casualties.

There is very high tension here because the expectation is that these attacks are going to be followed up by ground assaults led by the Kurdish PUK group backed by US Special Forces.


Doha :: Peter Hunt :: 0223GMT

We have just been told by an American Army spokesman that the suspect in the grenade attack is an army soldier assigned to the division. He has been taken into custody.

The obvious question is what the motivation is for this.

We also now know that 13 soldiers were injured, 11 of them have been evacuated. The suspect is among the injured.

The incident provoked shock and utter disbelief among the soldiers that one of their own might have been involved.


Washington :: Steve Kingstone :: 0130GMT

As the Pentagon and any US official you speak to sees it, there is confusion in the control and command structure of the Iraqi regime.

We have no way of knowing if that is true but it seems they think the more they say it, it will filter through.


Doha :: Peter Hunt :: 0054GMT

Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait should have been subject to very tight security so questions will be asked - embarrassing and potentially very damaging ones - about how this grenade attack could happen.

The security I've experienced here in Qatar is very severe. I'm screened, my bags are checked, there's a visible screen of my body, I can't walk about freely - I have to be driven everywhere by a military escort. That's the same sort of security I would imagine was in place around these camps in Kuwait.


Washington :: Nick Childs :: 0030 GMT

At the Pentagon they are still cautioning over what is to come. There are these six republican guard units surrounding Saddam and if they fight, that could be a tough fight.

It could be costly, not least in terms of lives.


Doha :: Nicholas Witchell :: 0024 GMT

It appears there was a grenade attack on Camp Pennsylvania, the assembly camp of the 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait. An eyewitness reported seeing a grenade being rolled into a tent where soldiers were sleeping.

Clearly an incident such as this will concern the allied forces considerably. One would have hoped the camp would be heavily guarded after terrorist attacks in Kuwait, but tonight it has been penetrated.


The movements of those reporting from Baghdad are restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities.




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