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Operation Iraqi Freedom - March 26
Day Seven

Sand storms continued on March 26, impeding the operations of Coalition forces in Central Iraq.

In Baghdad, two large explosions occurred in a residential section of the city. Initial reports indicated 17 residents were killed and 45 were injured. Iraqi officials blamed the blasts on Coalition bombs or missiles. At US Central command, a spokesman said it had not yet been determined if the explosions were caused by Coalition or Iraqi munitions. Other airstrikes targeted Iraqi radio and television facilities on the bank of the Tigris River. Despite the attack, two television channels (one satellite and one broadcast) were reported to be back on the air within hours. It was believed the Iraqi government was employing other facilities, and perhaps mobile transmitters, to maintain broadcasts.

Naval forces in the Persian Gulf also limited flight operations due to limited visibility. Carriers in the Persian Gulf were only able to launch 160 aircraft due to the poor conditions. In the first week of the war, over 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched by Navy ships and submarines.

The US Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) fought to encirle Najaf. Units moving north from Samawa captured a bridge south of the city late Tuesday, while the division's First Brigade seized another northern bridge early today, effectively completing the encirclement. At least 2 M-1 Abrams Tanks and 1 M-2 Bradley IFV were disabled, possibly by Iraqi antitank guided missiles. The damaged vehicles belonged to 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. One tank crewman was killed in action. Coalition spokespersons estimated at least 1000 Iraqi casualties in the vecinity of Najaf.

It was reported that Iraqi Republican Guard and paramilitary reinforcements were moving south from Baghdad and Karbala. By some accounts, Special Republican Guard personnel were also moving south. If true, such movement is anomalous: SRG forces serve primarily as a regime security force within Baghdad. Iraqi convoys moving south were hit with airstrikes from B-52, Tornado, and A-10 aircraft.

In southern Iraq it was estimated that one Iraqi regular brigade (approximately 2000 troops) plus 1000 paramilitaries were holding Basra. British forces from the 7th Armored Brigade and the 16th Air Assault Brigade were conducting raids and artillery fire missions to contain the Iraqi forces. In the evening, a column estimated to contain between 70 and 160 Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles attempted to break out of Basra under cover of darkness and poor weather. A running battle ensued, with UK air and ground forces massing to contain the breakout. Previous reports of an uprising against government forces within Basra appeared to be overstated or incorrect. Journalists from arabic-language media outlets, reporting from within Basra, stated that the city was calm.

Operations continued to clear mines from the channel leading to Umm Qasr. The RFA Sir Galahad awaited the completion of the clearance activities in order to begin offloading humanitarian relief supplies.

The coalition had reportedly taken 8900 enemy prisoners of war.

Units of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were moving north into Iraq by road to reinforce the advance of other Army and Marine forces. Attack helicopters of the same division, already deployed in central Iraq, were grounded due to the poor weather conditions.

Late in the evening of Mar 26 about 1,000 paratroops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade were dropped into a strategic airfield in Kurdish controlled territory, most likely at Bashar, a single runway airfield that has been under US and Coalition control for some time. Approximately 160 Special Forces personnel were in the area around the airfield and have been observed directing airstrikes against Iraqi positions.

Coalition air strikes had previously targeted command, control and air defense sites in the region.



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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:25:36 Zulu