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Iraq: British Forces Move Into Basra

Basra, 6 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- British forces today moved into the southern Iraqi city of Basra, in their biggest incursion after remaining mainly on the city's outskirts for two weeks. British military spokesman Chris Vernon said the move is intended to eradicate institutions of the ruling Ba'ath Party, as well as remaining paramilitary fighters who he said have been weakened in recent fighting.

The advance comes a day after coalition troops bombed the house of a close ally of Saddam Hussein, commander Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for overseeing the use of poison gas against Kurdish villagers in 1988. U.S. military spokesman Captain Frank Thorp today said forces had confirmed that an al-Majid bodyguard was killed in the strike, but it was not known whether al-Majid had been killed.

RFE/RL's correspondent outside Basra reports that the city remains in the hands of the Iraqi Army, plus a variety of security forces including Iraqi intelligence, regular police, and the Fedayeen.

In other news, U.S. warplanes today bombed a joint convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, killing at least 12 Kurdish fighters and injuring at least 45 others.

Hoshiar Zebari, a member of the governing Kurdistan Democratic Party, said Wajeeh Barzani, a brother of Kurdish leader Mas'ud Barzani, was traveling in the convoy and is in critical condition.

It is not immediately clear if there are any U.S. casualties.

The incident occurred this morning about 50 kilometers southeast of Mosul. U.S. Central Command said coalition aircraft were conducting air-support missions at the time in coordination with ground forces.

U.S. Central Command said an investigation is under way.