Iraq Sets Oil-Filled Trenches Ablaze Around Baghdad

Reuters Top Stories

22 March 2003 -- 10:25am EST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces lit oil-filled trenches around Baghdad on Saturday in an apparent bid to create a smokescreen over the city to hinder air strikes by U.S. and British forces, Reuters correspondents said.

At least two dozen fires were raging around Baghdad, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky. "We can smell burning oil in the city," one reporter said.

But the fires, lit in an apparent bid to confuse U.S. and British missiles or bombers flying over the Iraqi capital, might not be effective because many modern weapons use satellites to navigate.

Tomahawk cruise missiles, for instance, use three separate guidance systems to close in on a target, ultimately comparing video pictures with another version in a computer memory.

And much of the smoke was drifting in a wind blowing from the south west. It was not clear how the Iraqi authorities set the oil ablaze.

Baghdad has been the target of missiles and bombs since the United States and Britain started strikes on Thursday in a bid to oust President Saddam Hussein.

C/Edge NOTE: A recently retired U.S. Army Major told me last week that, while the GPS-guided munitions will fly through smoke screens to hit pre-programmed targets, all moveable targets will be missed by the munitions aiming for their previous location. Thus, if Saddam is trying to protect his moveable assets, he could not get a better smokescreen than these oil trench fires.