Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Saturday, March 22, 2003

US Launches Large-scale Attack, Iraqi Army Division Surrenders

The United States forces on Friday night launched a new phase of large-scale military attack on Iraq while an entire Iraqi army division of 8,000 soldiers surrendered to coalition forces.


The United States forces on Friday night launched a new phase of large-scale military attack on Iraq while an entire Iraqi army division of 8,000 soldiers surrendered to coalition forces.

Aboard the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, senior US military officials confirmed the large-scale military attack.

"We've just begun the next phase of attack on Iraq," said Rear Admiral Matthew G. Moffit, commander of the Kitty Hawk battle group deployed in the Gulf.

US warships launched 320 Tomahawk cruise missiles in and aroundBaghdad in about one hour since the attack began at around 19:30 local time on Friday night, according to the admiral.

Ten warships were involved in the attack, including four cruisers, four destroyers and two submarines, the admiral said.

The Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier also launched sorties to support the bombing mission in Iraq, according to Captain Patrick Driscoll, Commander of the Kitty Hawk Aircraft Carrier Air Wing Five.

Driscoll said three aircraft, including two EA-6B Prowlers, were involved in the electronic attacks to support for air strikes.

A number of F/A-18 Hornet fighters and F-14 Tomcat fighters from the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier attended the attack, according to the captain.

Moffit said this attack consisted of "entirely precision guidedweapons," including 2000-, 1000- and 500-pound bombs.

In addition, bunker busters were dropped by other aircraft, defined as penetrating weapons against installations that were hardened by concrete or sand, he said.

Defining the mission in general as "support for marines and the5th Corps," Moffit said two of the three battle groups deployed inthe Gulf area, the Kitty Hawk, the Constellation, were involved.

Driscoll told the press that in general, the targets were in the vicinity of Basra, Kalil andAl-Nazirea.

"This is three times the magnitude of Desert Storm One (in 1991)," Driscoll said when asked about the scale.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said an entire Iraqi army division of 8,000 soldiers surrendered Friday to coalition forces.

The 51st division of the Iraqi army surrendered as coalition forces approached the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

It is the first time that Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse since the US-led military action against Iraq began Wednesday night.

The 51st division is a key force protecting Basra, a city of strategic significance in the south.

In Baghdad, a Xinhua correspondent saw bombs dropped by US war planes hitting targets in the eastern part of the city early Saturday morning.

Huge explosions were heard, and the sky was illuminated by flames and anti-aircraft fire.

The raids were part of US "shock and awe operation," which started Friday evening. In a statement released early Saturday, an Iraqi military spokesman said Iraqi forces were still fighting against US-Britishtroops in Fao Peninsula and the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.

Earlier, the US-led forces announced that they had captured UmmQasr.

"The enemy landed his forces and armor in Fao ... bad luck brought him (the enemy) under our brave artillery fire," the spokesman said.

"Enemy troops (in Fao and Umm Qasr) continue to be dealt devastating blows by our brave forces," he said.

On Friday night, Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmad told reporters that Umm Qasr remained under the control of the 45th Iraqi Brigade.

Also Saturday morning, a total of 1,500 Turkish soldiers invaded northern Iraq, al-Jazeera TV channel reported.

The Turkish move came after Turkey confirmed that it has openedits airspace to US warplanes for the ongoing strikes on Iraq.

"It has been determined that it is in Turkey's interests to open Turkish air space," Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul toldreporters late Friday.

On Friday evening, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkish troops will enter northern Iraq following an agreement to be reached by Turkey and the United States on the issue.

Turkey has claimed that its military presence in northern Iraq will help stop a possible wave of refugees toward the Turkish border and to prevent Turkish Kurdish rebels from launching anti-Turkey operations in the area.

However, the United States had been opposed to the Turkish military move, fearing that Turkish troops would clash with Iraqi Kurds living in northern Iraq.

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