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Iraq: Suicide Bomber Kills Five U.S. Soldiers

Prague, 29 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- As air strikes continued today in Baghdad and areas south of the capital, the U.S. military said today that a suicide car bomber killed five soldiers at a military checkpoint on a highway near the vanguard of coalition forces. U.S. officers told news agencies that a taxi stopped close to the checkpoint near Najaf, the driver waved for help, and the car exploded when five soldiers approached the car.

To the north of Najaf, the U.S. military said its helicopters attacked units of Iraq's Republican Guard today, killing at least 50 Iraqi soldiers and destroying a number of military vehicles.

And farther north on the fringes of Baghdad, correspondents said there were intense air strikes after midday.

Iraq's information minister said coalition bombing since last night has killed 62 people. Mourners gathered after daybreak at a Baghdad marketplace where Iraqi officials said a blast during the night killed at least 58 people.

The U.S. military reported firing a cruise missile at the Information Ministry in the capital. Video footage today showed the ministry building sustained structural damage but was still largely intact.

Coalition forces south of Baghdad are holding their positions, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements and supplies. A British military spokesman said it was not a "pause" but rather an opportunity to prepare for the next phase of the drive toward Baghdad.