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Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- U.S. Forces Advance Toward Baghdad

RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz is embedded with the U.S Army's 3rd Infantry Division, whose troops were among the first to enter southern Iraq. In this "Desert Dispatch," Synovitz talks on 23 March about the U.S. advance towards Baghdad based on information he is receiving from the U.S. military: "The U.S. Army is continuing its advance northward into Iraq today, seizing positions on the outskirts of Al-Najaf, about half way between Baghdad and the Kuwaiti border. The U.S. 3rd infantry division is now fighting troops from Iraq's regular army at a river crossing near [Al-Najach]. The division is also fighting tanks and infantry from the Iraqi National Guard -- the Al-Qads -- at As-Samawal, on the main highway linking Baghdad to the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

"Those advances follow yesterday's seizure of the Telil airfield and the headquarters of the Iraqi Regular Army's 11th infantry division near An-Nasiriyah, on the west side of the Euphrates River. Iraqi losses in the battle near An-Nasiriyah included hundreds of soldiers killed in action, more than 35 tanks and heavy artillery pieces destroyed, and more than 300 prisoners of war taken by the overwhelming U.S. forces. One American soldier was injured in the assault on the 11th division headquarters and was taken from the battlefield by medics in a Blackhawk helicopter. U.S. forces C-17 and C-130 cargo planes were flying to the Telil airfield early today, and fresh U.S. reinforcements also were arriving in the area overland from Kuwait. Today is the third day of the [ground] invasion of Iraq, and the U.S. battle plan is continuing to unfold ahead of schedule."