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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 14:13 GMT
Applause as Marines enter Basra

By David Willis
BBC correspondent in southern Iraq

Iraqi soldiers waving white flag in surrender in southern Iraq
Predictions Iraqi soldiers would surrender rather than fight seem to be true
Coming into Basra as part of a massive military convoy, I encountered a stream of young men, dressed in what appeared to be Iraqi army uniforms, applauding the US marines as they swept past in tanks.

US predictions that many here would choose to surrender rather than fight appear to have come true.

Leaflets had been dropped on the city, urging members of the 51st Iraqi Division to surrender, and I saw hundreds doing so.

Late on Friday night, they were lined up along the roadside, being separated according to rank, checked for weapons and documented.

Some, however, chose to fight on, and were met with a fierce barrage of artillery fire on Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Iraq's economic future

US and British marines now seem confident that they have secured Iraq's second-largest city, Basra.

Intermittent shelling continued around the port city throughout Saturday morning.

Troops are now securing the city's vast oil fields, although some have been set ablaze.

US marine wears mask as oil well burns in southern Iraq
The wealth such oil fields generate is literally going up in smoke

Giant plumes of smoke now dominate the horizon of this historic city as, in what looks like an eerie repeat of the last Gulf War, oil fields are ablaze.

As we arrived in Basra, I counted half a dozen oil fields billowing smoke and flame.

The Rumeila oil fields account for roughly half of Iraq's oil output and are capable of pumping one million barrels a day.

US and British forces succeeded in securing the majority before they could be set alight.

Doing so was seen as important for the economic future of Iraq post-Saddam Hussein.

But some of the wealth those oil fields generate is literally going up in smoke in front of my eyes.




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