Second wave of attacks launched in Basra
ROYAL Marine Commandos today launched a second wave of attacks on Basra, Iraq's strategic second city.Elite forces began their new probe into the south west outskirts with heavy shelling during the afternoon.
ROYAL Marine Commandos today launched a second wave of attacks on Basra, Iraq's strategic second city.
Elite forces began their new probe into the south west outskirts with heavy shelling at about 3.30pm local time.
Hours earlier soldiers from the 7th Armoured Brigade - the Desert Rats - made a breakthrough following more than two weeks on its outskirts.
They had pushed their way through an industrial area in the outskirts from the south west, and encountered "isolated pockets" of resistance.
The campaign comes a week after the Marines' biggest attack of the war - codenamed Operation James - when they seized large parts of the city suburbs.
Marines from 3 Commando Brigade were now pushing deeper into the city, with support from 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers.
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Artillery support, which can be heard across the suburbs, was being provided by the AS90s and 150 Light Guns of 29 Commando while the mighty Challenger 2 tanks from 2 Royal Tank Regiment were also being used.
Speaking after the first wave of attacks, UK military spokesman Group Captain Al Lockwood, in Qatar, said it appeared Basra's Baath Party leadership had either been eliminated or fled.
He said the city's civilians appeared to have welcomed the troops.
Military commanders decided to push into the city centre - beyond their original intention to establish checkpoints on its suburbs - after encountering minimal resistance by Iraqi forces.
Group Capt Lockwood said: "At the start of the operation today, 7th Armoured Brigade on three different axes moved in towards the centre.
"Our initial objective was to control the outskirts of Basra, set up vehicle and civilian checkpoints and stabilise that area.
"We met some light resistance and I understand now we are continuing the approach in towards the centre of Basra.
"We had resistance initially on the way in, but that appears to have disappeared.''
Explaining the decision to move in, Capt Lockwood said reports that the remaining leadership in Basra was keen to surrender, and that the city's citizens were looting the shops suggesting a loss of control by Iraqi forces, had been influential factors.
Iraq's second city was expected to fall easily to the allies when the war began 18 days' ago.
Instead paramilitaries loyal to the Iraqi dictator forced a stand-off with British troops halted on the outskirts of the city.