U.S. escalates bombing campaign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - American forces have enough bombs and missiles for the Iraq war, despite an intensifying air campaign focused on destroying the Republican Guard forces arrayed around Baghdad, U.S. military officials say.

U.S.-led forces launched missiles early Tuesday toward Baghdad and the holy Shiite Muslim city of Karbala to the southwest. Among the targets, U.S. officials said, was a complex that serves as the office of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, where Iraqi dissidents say Saddam's son Odai runs a torture center.

U.S. warplanes used more than 3,000 precision-guided bombs on Iraqi targets over the weekend, compared to about 5,000 in the previous week, said Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said coalition forces had fired more than 700 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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Air Force Secretary James Roche said Tuesday there was no reason for concern about running low on the precision-guided bomb he called the ''weapon of choice'' in this war, the satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition launched by Air Force and Navy planes.

''We don't see a problem there,'' Roche said in an interview with a group of reporters.

The United States can switch to other munitions if it runs low on the $600,000 Tomahawks, said Marine Col. Tom Bright of U.S. Central Command.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced that the number of American troops killed in the war so far has risen to 46, up three from Monday. Of the total, 38 are categorized as hostile deaths and eight as non-hostile. The non-hostile category includes troops who died in accidents. Sixteen service members are listed as ''duty status whereabouts unknown'' - a status similar to missing in action - and seven are prisoners of war.

The U.S.-led air assault has severely damaged the Republican Guard units defending Baghdad, military officials said Monday. They include the Medina, Hammurabi and Baghdad divisions south of the capital and units of the Nebuchadnezzar division, which is normally stationed far north of Baghdad, which have moved south as reinforcements.

As fighting south of the Iraqi capital continued Monday, U.S. troops killed at least seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint when the driver of a van they were riding in failed to stop as ordered, Central Command said. An American reporter with the Army unit involved said 10 were killed, including five preschool-age children.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident.

Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, said his soldiers fired several warning shots at the vehicle and ''it continued to come.'' An Iraqi soldier in civilian clothing killed four soldiers from the same 3rd Infantry Division at a nearby checkpoint with a car bomb on Saturday.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf strongly criticized the incident and other instances of civilian deaths in the war.

''They are becoming more tense and hysterical,'' he told a Tuesday morning press conference in Baghdad.

Fresh U.S. forces were flowing to the Persian Gulf, including 500 members of an Army cavalry regiment being sent ahead of schedule to help protect U.S. supply lines from Iraqi attack.

McChrystal, vice director of operations on the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told a news conference that more than 300,000 allied forces were in the Gulf region, about 250,000 of them American. Last Friday his boss, Gen. Richard Myers, had put the allied total at 270,000.