Herald Sun (AU) From correspondents in London 04apr03
US and British special forces have slipped into Baghdad during a blackout and begun covert operations including an assessment of the threat posed by Iraq’s elite Republican Guard, according to British media.
The electricity cut in the capital coincided with a major incursion by SAS and American special forces personnel, newspapers in London said.
The Guardian, quoting military sources in Qatar, said that dozens of British and American special forces teams poured into Baghdad after the power went down.
The Financial Times also reported: “Power went off in most of Baghdad for the first time since the start of the conflict, as military sources said that special forces were active in the city.”
The Daily Telegraph said it was no coincidence. It said allied aircraft had dropped “blackout” bombs on to the main power supply lines plunging the capital into complete darkness.
The move enabled “the SAS and its US Delta Force counterparts to enter the city unimpeded”, the newspaper said, allowing them to look for the Republican Guard.
The suggestion that power had been deliberately shut down by allied bombs was refuted by the US military today.
“Central Command has not targeted the power grid in Baghdad,” said General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
His denial left open the possibility that covert teams from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may have been responsible, The Times and The Sun said.
The Pentagon dropped two “blackout” bombs in the Kosovo campaign and was criticised after hospitals were left without power.
“Military commanders could face international court action if use of the device is seen as an attack on a civilian population,” said The Sun.
The Independent suggested the action by the special forces was more opportunistic, the blackout giving them a chance “to probe strengths and weaknesses of pro-Saddam forces in the city”.
“Hundreds of SAS and American special forces last night swept into Baghdad on a search-and-destroy mission after the city was dramatically plunged into darkness,” The Daily Express said.
“They will go in and have a look around. If everything has collapsed in there they may make a decision to follow in with everything else,” said a senior military source quoted in the tabloid.