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Iraq: Allies Attack Presidential Complex In Baghdad

Prague, 1 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Coalition forces today continued bombarding Baghdad, with attacks focused on the main presidential complex and the outskirts of the capital. The ground war also moved closer to Baghdad, with fighting between coalition troops and Iraqi forces reported around Hindiyah, some 80 kilometers south of the capital, and nearby Hilla. U.S. officers said Iraqi militia and Republican Guard units had suffered heavy losses. At least one U.S. soldier died yesterday in the clashes.

Iraq reported fighting in and around the southern city of Nasiriyah and said the Republican Guard was involved along with regular army troops and Ba'ath Party militia. A military spokesman on Iraqi television said Iraqi forces had inflicted heavy casualties.

General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, overnight said seven women and children died yesterday after U.S. troops fired on their vehicle. Pace said the group failed to stop at a checkpoint near Najaf, not far from where four U.S. Army soldiers were killed on 29 March in a suicide attack. "The vehicle was approaching the checkpoint. It was ordered to stop. It did not stop. The guards fired warning shots towards the vehicle. The vehicle still did not stop. Then they fired into the engine of the vehicle trying to make it stop. It still did not stop. So they ended up firing into the vehicle itself," Pace said.

The U.S. Central Command says U.S. Marines have captured what it describes as a huge ammunition depot in south-central Iraq. Central Command said the facility included 40 warehouses.

Iraq today denied in a statement U.S. suggestions that members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's family had fled abroad.