Iraq Says US Troops Have not Crossed Tigris River

Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denied on Wednesday that US troops had crossed the Tigris river in the attack toward Baghdad as claimed by US officials.

Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, al-Sahaf said, "I have detailed information about the situation...which completely proves that what they allege are illusions."

"They lie every day. Therefore what they say or allege about success and advances in Najaf and Kerbala are illusions.

"They also said they crossed the Tigris, which is another lie. As is what they said about Kut."

In Qatar, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks of the US Central Command insisted that US troops had crossed the Tigris river.

Al-Sahaf said Iraq had taken several American prisoners in fighting near Nassiriya.

Ealier Wednesday, US officials said US Marines had seized a key crossing over the Tigris river near Kut earlier in the day.

Al-Sahaf also said the overnight bombardment of Baghdad had killed 10 Iraqis and wounded 90.

He said Iraqi forces fought off a US attack on the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Najaf.

"I can assure you those villains will recognize and discover in the future the extent of their stupidity. Their effect on us is very limited," he said of the invading US-led coalition forces.

The information minister also accused US-led invasion forces of bombing sacred shrines in Najaf and dropping booby-trapped pens and pencils on Iraqi villages.

In his latest allegations that US and British air forces were deliberately targeting Iraqi civilians, Sahaf said: "This will be very astonishing to you. They have started sending down bombs on Iraqi villages."

"Do you know what these booby traps are? They are pens and pencils," he said, holding aloft what looked like a black ball-point pen.

"We told our people to avoid them and we confiscated them," he said.



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