Venick Aviation intel update: April 7 (continued)
08.04.2003 [12:21]

By this evening the situation on the US-Iraqi front in the environs of
Baghdad has become less tense. All the American units have returned to
their initial positions corresponding to the morning of April 7th.
Currently artillery and aviation occasionally open fire at the city. The
details of todays raid of the 1st tank brigade of the 3rd Mechanized
Division column to the central district of Baghdad are now available.
Radio surveillance data allow us to contend that it was a joint action
of the American Special Forces and the army command. Having penetrated
into Baghdad a few days before the commandos after reconnaissance
concentrated near several government buildings and got ready for a storm.

At the same time from the Khan-Azad region towards Al-Rashid along the
Kadissiya roadway advanced a mechanized unit of the 3rd Division
consisting of one tank battalion and one motorized infantry battalion
(up to 70 tanks and 60 armored personnel carriers). No sooner had the
column reached the outskirts of the city, at the rear of the Iraqis the
commandos started to storm the target objects  two government buildings
and the building of the Ministry of Information, the waiting room of the
Security Service and the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Iraq. The main objective was to find an entrance to the government
underground shelter system and capture high-ranking Iraqi officials.
Without combat the commandos were able to seize the Al-Shihud palace and
the Republican palace, which were guarded by small patrols only. The
palaces turned out empty, and their examination did not reveal any
underground shelters. Soon after the palaces had been captured a column
of the 1st brigade moved into this region and stood guard over.

But when attempting to storm the government offices the commandos were
sighted, blocked and engaged by the guardians. In order to help the
commandos a mixed battalion group that had managed to break to the quay
of the Tigris moved forward but was stopped by an anti-tank artillery
barrage and got ambushed by RPG soldiers. During that almost two-hour
battle the Americans lost up to 5 APC and 2 tanks. At least 8 solders
were killed and more than 20 wounded. By 3pm the remains of the commando
assault groups forced their way to the American positions and at 15:30
their common withdrawal began. At 5pm the American troops left the city.
The exact casualties of the American Special Forces remain unclear.
According to communications between American commanders the status of
least 15 men is unknown. Whether they are dead, captured or hiding in
the city is still obscure.
It was reported that the commandos captured a high officer but during
the rush he was killed and left in the city.

The American command criticized the raid. General Tommy Franks who came
to the airport region called the level of the casualties during this
local operation unacceptable and the results paltry. Yet it was
noted that the Iraqi command reacted on bringing the forces into Baghdad
with an inexplicable delay and the actions of the counter-attacking
Iraqi units uncoordinated. American commanders believe that it
happened due to severe malfunction of the whole communication and
control system. It is still unclear what damaged Iraqi communications.
According to some data most of the high command left the city after it
had been blocked and moved to a reserve command center located in the
northern regions of Iraq while the local command remaining in the city
has not taken control over the situation yet.
Some officers in the coalition HQ presume that if this is the case then
even storming Baghdad will not finish this war and a campaign to the
north, where quite an effective and large group of Iraqi troops
remains, might be necessary.

During this day the British forces of the 7th armored brigade and the
3rd marine brigade have been assaulting Basra. After a nine-hour battle
the British have managed to occupy the districts of the New Basra
Subhay and Ahavat-Rezan and advanced into the Old Basra towards the
Presidential residence, but still cannot take control of the old
districts. The Al-Ashar and Akina regions as well as a part of the
Al-Arab quay remain in Iraqi hands and the British command admits that
it will be very difficult to occupy them since armored units cannot move
down narrow streets.
The total losses of the British in this region amount to at least 7
killed and 15 wounded. A tank and 2 APC were destroyed. The Iraqis lost
up to 100 men killed, about 50 captured, 3 tanks and 6 guns. The British
estimate the number of defenders in the old districts to be 500 Iraqi
militiamen and soldiers of the 51st Infantry Division supported by at
least 10 tanks, 12 guns and a lot of portable antitank launchers.

This morning the coalition troops captured Karbala. According to its
citizens most of the Iraqi units that were defendeding the town during
the evening-night of April 6th left it and moved north. Just a few home
guard units remaining in the town ceased their resistance and mixed with
the local population. A captured RG officer said that the order to leave
the town was received in the morning of April 6th personally from Saddam
Hussein after the general HQ obtained information about the American
artillery barrage that resulted in a few shells dropped near one of the
main Moslem sacred places, the grave of Hussein ibn-Ali. So as not to
insult the Shia population of Karbala by the possible destruction of the
sacred place the order to leave the town was issued. Currently the
Americans are trying to reveal and clean off Saddams agents.

Reports about taking over the Al-Khindiya town after the ten-day storm
are also coming. The town of 30 thousand people was in turn assaulted by
an Expeditionary Marine unit and later a brigade of the 101st Airborne
Division. After occupation of the town and interrogation of captives it
was discovered that the whole garrison of Al-Khindiya consisted of 3 RG
companies and 1 militia squadron, about 500 soldiers altogether. More
than 200 defenders of the town were killed, about 100 captured. In
battles of Al-Khindiya the Americans lost up to 15 men killed, at least
40 wounded. 10 armored vehicles were destroyed. By evidence of a Red
Crescent representative who came there yesterday, even seriously
wounded soldiers incapable of walking were taken to the prisoner-of-war
camp. Arrests of citizens suspected in resistance are now taking place
in the town.

An-Nasiriya, An-Najaf, Al-Kut, Ad-Divaniya and some more small towns on
the south of Iraq remain under Iraqis control. Only yesterday the
Americans lost up to 5 armored vehicles, at least 3 men killed and 10
wounded. Today near An-Nasiriya a rear American column got ambushed. The
casualties are unknown so far, but judging from the immediate takeoff of
aviation cover and helicopters with an airborne unblocking group the
battle is not in favor of the column.