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General Franks: Coalition Troops Within 100 Kilometers of Baghdad - 2003-03-30


The commander of coalition forces in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, says allied ground forces are within 100 kilometers of Baghdad on multiple fronts.

During his news conference in Qatar today (Sunday), General Franks denied U.S. troops were pausing on their way to the Iraqi capital. He said the invasion was making "remarkable" progress but could not say when it would end. As he spoke, military and communications sites in and around Baghdad came under renewed massive bombardment. Elite Iraqi Republican Guard troops are guarding the approaches to the capital.

Iraq's information minister (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf) told reporters in Baghdad today Iraqi forces have shot down at least one U.S. helicopter, and killed two pilots. The Pentagon says no helicopters are known to be missing.

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq, British forces are reporting progress in their efforts to secure the second largest city, Basra. A British military spokesman says British commandos captured an Iraqi general, and killed a colonel of the Republican Guard during fighting outside Basra.

In other developments, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has threatened more attacks against U.S. forces like the suicide bomb that killed four American soldiers in central Iraq Saturday.

Iraq's television says Saturday's suicide bomber --an officer posing as a taxi driver -- was posthumously promoted to colonel and awarded two medals by President Saddam Hussein. His family was given the equivalent of 30 thousand dollars.

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