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Iraq: Fighting Continues In South As Paratroopers Land In North

Baghdad, 27 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The war in Iraq has opened its second week, with Baghdad coming under renewed bombardment and about 1,000 U.S. troops parachuting into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to prepare the opening of a northern front against President Saddam Hussein's forces. Officials said the U.S. paratroopers, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade based at Vicenza, Italy, landed at an airfield at Bashur, northeast of the Kurdish-controlled city of Arbil. Officials said the airstrip is expected to be used to bring in military equipment and further personnel.

Reports say about 30 explosions were heard around Baghdad during the night as the capital again came under bombardment. It was not immediately known what sites had been targeted.

In Washington, U.S. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said American forces were prepared to engage in battle a column of Iraqi vehicles that was reported heading south from Baghdad toward Kerbala.

Earlier, the Iraqi military said Republican Guards had attacked coalition troops in south-central Iraq and inflicted losses.

Reports quoted British military officials as saying British and U.S. warplanes had attacked a convoy of Iraqi military vehicles that had broken out to the south of the besieged city of Basra in southern Iraq. Reports said a number of Iraqi vehicles, including tanks, had been destroyed.