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1991: US Marines killed at Al Khafji
Iraqi troops have seized control of a town inside the Saudi Arabian border after a fierce battle in which both sides suffered casualties.

The Allies destroyed at least 24 Iraqi tanks in the fight for control of Al Khafji. Twelve American marines lost their lives - the first Allied casualties on land since Desert Storm began 14 days ago. There were no British soldiers involved in the fighting.

The attack on Al Khafji came as a surprise and the US military commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf, said it showed the Iraqis have "plenty more fight in them".

Every time an Iraqi airplane takes off the ground it is running away
General Norman Schwarzkopf
He was speaking to reporters as the first detailed assessment of the Allies' progress in the war was made public.

General Schwarzkopf said the Allies now have total air supremacy.

He said: "The Iraqis have abandoned centralised control of air defence within Iraq and Kuwait, a very important point."

Ammunition dumps have been destroyed and the main supply route between Baghdad and Kuwait disrupted.

Saddam Hussein's elite troops, the Republican Guard, have come under sustained aerial bombardment

At sea, 46 Iraqi ships have now been sunk. More warplanes and ships have taken refuge in Iran.

General Schwarzkopf said: "The simple fact of the matter is that now every time an Iraqi airplane takes off the ground it is running away, as a result [we] have now claimed air supremacy."

Oil slick threat

Reports from the northern Gulf suggest the Iraqis have begun dumping oil into the sea at Mina Al Bakr.

Iraqi shelling has already created a slick measuring 50 miles long by 12 miles wide (80km by 19km) which could seriously hamper any seaborne defence of Kuwait.

In his state of the union address to the American people following news of the first land battle, President George Bush praised the troops serving in the Gulf.

He said, "There is no-one more devoted more committed to the hard work of freedom than every soldier and sailor, every marine and coastguardsman, every man and woman now serving in the Persian Gulf."

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US Marines arrive in Saudi Arabia September 1990
US Marines are the first of the Allies to suffer casualties in this war

The battle for Al Khafji

US Marine William Yale's account of the battle for Al Khafji

In Context
Operation Desert Storm began at 2330GMT on 16 January 1991 after Iraq refused to comply with a UN ultimatum to withdraw from Kuwait.

After more than a month of intensive air attacks, the Allies launched a major land offensive against the Iraqis in Kuwait on 24 February.

One day later, the Iraqis began retreating. On 27 February, President George Bush declared victory. Kuwait was liberated but Saddam Hussein remained in power in Baghdad.

By 2002, the Iraqi dictator was still in control and Bush's son, George W, was now president.

Following mixed success against the al-Qaeda terrorists behind the 11 September attacks on the United States, the president widened the scope of the "War on Terror" to include Iraq.

In September 2002, Baghdad agreed to a UN demand to let in weapons inspectors. In January 2003 the US and Britain began sending troops to the Gulf region in preparation for a second Gulf War which began in March despite worldwide opposition to war.

By the end of April 2003, Saddam Hussein's regime had been toppled and preparations were being made for a new Iraqi-led government.

The former Iraqi leader was captured in December 2003 after several months in hiding. He was tried and then executed in December 2006.

The country was run by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by American diplomat Paul Bremer until 28 June 2004 when power was handed back to Iraq.

Elections for a full, sovereign Iraqi government were held in 2005.

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