Two US troops were killed in the battle for Baghdad’s main airport while a third soldier died in a car crash during the initial stages of the raid, the US military says.
US forces took control of the airport earlier today in a battle that military officials said was less fierce than had been expected – despite the loss of the three soldiers.
US commanders have ordered hundreds of troops to reinforce the 1500 already at the airport ahead of what is expected to be a furious fight for the complex overnight.
Reuters and AFP correspondents in Baghdad have reported the sound of artillery and small arms fire from the direction of the airport, which may signal a renewed battle has already begun.
It is not clear whether the fire is from Iraqi troops attacking the complex or Coalition forces defending it, one correspondent said.
Colonel Will Grimsley, commander of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade, said three US troops had died in the attack on the complex.
The first soldier died and his driver was wounded when his vehicle came under Iraqi mortar fire, he said.
The second, an engineer platoon sergeant, was shot dead during “an enemy infiltration attempt” on the periphery of the complex, Col. Grimsley said.
He added that another US soldier was killed on Thursday alongside a Washington Post journalist when their Humvee plunged into a canal while evading Iraqi fire during the advance to the airport.
Earlier, Group Captain Al Lockwood, a spokesman for British forces, said the capture of the airport – just 12 miles from the centre of the Iraqi capital – was “a jewel in the crown to the coalition”.
Formerly known as Saddam International Airport, Coalition forces have renamed it Baghdad International.
Iraq’s Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has warned that the airport is surrounded by Iraqi forces and US troops defending it will find it hard to leave alive if they do not surrender.
“We will commit a non-conventional act on them, not necessarily military.
“We will do something that will be a great example for these mercenaries,” Sahaf threatened chillingly.
He added that five columns of Iraqi armour have been airlifted to the airport and that the army would conduct “martyrdom operations” but denied weapons of mass destruction would be used.
Last Updated: 22:24 UK, Friday April 04, 2003