- NEAR NASSIRIYA (Reuters)
- U.S. Marines were still bogged down on Monday outside the southern Iraqi
city of Nassiriya, the key to opening a second route north to Baghdad,
after taking significant casualties there on Sunday.
- Reuters correspondent Sean Maguire said the Marines he
was traveling with were stuck and had to decide whether to fight through
to Nassiriya's bridges over the Euphrates river about 225 miles southeast
of Baghdad, or go around the city.
- "We can see Nassiriya but we're not moving. Commanders
fairly high up the chain are deciding what we should do," Maguire
said, speaking from about 12 miles from the city. "The whole regiment
we're traveling with is just stuck here."
- He said there had been no action since U.S. artillery
fire on the city on Sunday evening. "Either they have to get stuck
in and fight their way through or go round -- but it is a long, awkward
way round. They need those bridges," he said.
- U.S. officers said on Sunday that the Marine battalion
heading the fight suffered "significant casualties" in a battle
with irregular guerrilla fighters known as Saddam's Fedayeen.
- U.S. troops captured the northern ends of the two bridges
in the east of Nassiriya early on Sunday, opening the way for forces to
head north toward the Tigris river and Baghdad.
- But units of the Fedayeen, an irregular militia force
of loyalists to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, counterattacked. U.S. officers
suggested late on Sunday that the bridgeheads were now secure but the area
in between was not.
- "This is one of few urban centers they really have
to touch. A relatively small group of guerrilla fighters can hold up a
whole brigade," Maguire said.
- U.S. Army General John Abizaid told a news conference
in Qatar on Sunday that 12 U.S. service members were missing after an ambush
in the Nassiriya area and said up to nine were killed in the "sharpest
engagement of the war thus far."
- Iraq displayed five shaken U.S. soldiers apparently captured
in the ambush near Nassiriya and also filmed the bloodied bodies of up
to eight men they said were dead American soldiers.
- A CNN television correspondent at Nassiriya on Sunday
quoted eyewitnesses in the battle as saying they had seen about 10 American
bodies around an amphibious assault vehicle that had been hit by a rocket-propelled
- Iraqi defense officials said 25 bodies of U.S. soldiers
had been found on the battlefield at Nassirya.
- Iraqi Information Minister Information Minister Mohammed
Saeed al-Sahaf said on Sunday that foreign invaders headed to Nassiriya
had been "taught a lesson they will never forget."
- Speeding columns of the U.S. Third Infantry have covered
nearly two thirds of the 300 miles from the Kuwaiti border in two days
before running into Iraqi resistance near Najaf on the southwest bank of
- A strike north across the river at Nassiriya toward the
Tigris river and Baghdad could create a pincer movement.