IST14:30 US command: Nasiriya has fallen
22 March 2003
After elements of the US 3rd Division overcame Iraqi opposition, US armored column heading for Baghdad surges through fallen city across Euphrates River and continues advance on capital. Witnesses report large explosions on Baghdad outskirts when allied resumed missile and aerial attacks.
Senior Israeli military source Saturday: While encouraged by allied advances in western Iraq, Israel is sustaining current high preparedness since Saddam still capable of extreme and harsh retaliation.
As to reports of crippling injury to Iraqi leadership in Baghdad bombing, source sees no sign Iraq is in leaderless state
DEBKAfile: After capturing one-third of key oil port of Basra Saturday, Anglo-American commanders open surrender negotiations with Iraqi 6th Armored and 11th Infantry Divisions after 8,000-strong Iraqi 51st Mechanized Division came over with 200 tanks.
DEBKAfiles military sources: Four Iraqi divisions defending Baghdad pull back from positions 50km outside city to 30km-line after sustaining heavy casualties in nights massive bombardment on military and government targets. Civilian casualties among 6 million population relatively light.
Baghdad awoke Saturday to thunder of fresh US missile explosions two at one of Saddams palace compounds. US planes continued to strike Kirkuk and Mosul. Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam enclave in northern Iraq struck for first time by 70 US missiles
US truck convoys transport hundreds of floating bridges from Kuwait into southern Iraq. DEBKAfile: Bridges prepared to carry allied forces across marshes northwest of Basra on way to strategic confluence of Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
Devastating blitz Friday night brought 1000 cruise missiles plus 2000 other missiles slamming into Iraqi cities while 1000 US and British warplanes carried out 1000 bombing sorties. Iraq claims 250 civilians injured in overnight bombardment of Baghdad
Allied missiles again hit Baghdad as city awoke Saturday to assess the damage of the overnight blitz. Iraqi authorities reported three civilians killed and 207 injured. The Iraqi health minister made a point of emphasizing that Saddam Hussein was alive and well, despite the widespread media reports that he had been injured in the first allied bombardment of Baghdad.
Most of the casualties of the thousands of air sorties and missile strikes were sustained by the four elite Republican Guard divisions defending Baghdad, who fell back from their 50km perimeter around the capital to a 30km line.
During the day US-UK advances were substantial. After the fall of southern Gulf port of Umm Qasr and Nasiriya, gateway to the Euphrates, elements peeled away from the main force to mop up pockets of resistance. The capture of Nasiriya by elements of the US 3rd Division permitted the allied column to cross the Euphrates and to continue its rapid advance towards Baghdad, bypassing the two big Shiite towns of Najaf and Karbala.
One whole Iraqi division, the 51st, came over with 8000 men and 200 tanks, weakening the defenses of Basra. Two-thirds of the city was quickly captured, while allied commanders entered into surrender negotiations with Iraqi 6th Armored and 11th Infantry Divisions. Talks also began with civic leaders of the predominantly Shiite city, Iraqs third largest, whose population the coalition is determined not to antagonize. Removal of the 6th Armored Division from combat would be important because the line held by this force north of Basra from its base in Majnun commands the oil fields of Iraqi Khozistan on the Iranian border. Unless disarmed, this division would pose a constant threat to the oil fields.
Following the capture of the big H-2 and H-3 air base complexes of western
Iraq, allied military engineers began preparing the installations for large-scale
aircraft and helicopter landings of thousands troops from Jordan and western
Saudi Arabia. The incoming units will head two ways: one section will secure
Iraq-Syrian border regions in the north. This force may possibly even entering
Syria to seek an destroy Iraqi surface missile batteries and chemical and biological
weapons systems smuggled across the frontier and capable of reaching Jordan
and Israel. The second force will turn east in the direction of Tikrit and al