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General: Iraqi regime showing 'true colors'

WASHINGTON -- The Iraqi regime has "shown its true colors" in recent days with brutality and disregard for international rules of warfare, a U.S. Central Command official said today.

Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations at CENTCOM's deployed headquarters in Qatar, said Iraqi forces are repressing the Iraqi population and deliberately endangering protected sites.

In the southern city of Basra, Brooks said, coalition forces have seen "a significant degree of violence" done to the civilian population by Iraqi paramilitary forces.

He noted Iraqi forces have fired mortars at civilians and that British troops have been working in the region to cut off any Iraqi reinforcements from entering the town. U.K. forces are also firing on Iraqi positions that are attacking the town.

He said these and other actions of Iraqi paramilitary forces -- sometimes in uniform, sometimes not -- are "more akin to the behaviors of global terrorists than they are to a nation."

"It's clear to us that the people of Basra have had about enough of what the regime is doing to them," Brooks said, adding, "We remain committed to their liberation, not their destruction."

In an earlier briefing in recent days, Brooks had shown photographs of Iraqi MiG fighter jets parked in cemeteries. Today, he showed images of military communications equipment located "right beside" 2,000-year-old ruins on the banks of the Tigris River 20 miles southeast of Baghdad.

"We remain committed to preserving the rich culture and heritage and the resources of the Iraqi people," the general said. "The regime continues to put them at risk."

Brooks said he couldn't confirm media reports that an errant American bomb killed 14 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad market. Once officials can confirm what happened in Baghdad, they will release that information, he said. Brooks added that coalition forces "do everything physically and scientifically possible to minimize secondary effects" on both people and civilian structures.

Operationally, coalition forces "remain on plan" and are confident of their objectives. "We're unified in purpose and in our commitment to achieving our aims," he said.

Direct attacks against regime command and control assets, communications sites and the integrated air-defense system continued during the past 24 hours. Coalition forces also struck several targets of opportunity.

U.S. forces from the Army's V Corps, deployed from Germany, "sustained a few damaged vehicles and in turn inflicted significant damage on the Iraqi force" southeast of An Najaf, Brooks said.

Near An Nasiriyah, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force secured a hospital that was being used as a paramilitary headquarters. Brooks said Marines found 200 weapons, Iraqi military uniforms, a tank, 3,000 chemical protective suits, and auto-injectors filled with nerve agent antidote.

Maritime components cleared the Khor Abdullah waterway "all the way up to the port of Umm Qasr." Brooks noted this would allow coalition forces to begin delivering humanitarian supplies.

He spoke briefly about Iraqi missile attacks into Kuwait. He said the Iraqis have fired 10 missiles, "all of which have been oriented toward Kuwait." All missiles that were threatening were knocked down by Patriot missiles.

The general said it was "interesting" that several of the Iraqis' Ababil-100 and Al Samoud missiles have flown beyond the 150-kilometer limit imposed by the United Nations. "One missile flew extremely long and went into the north Arabian Gulf," Brooks said, noting that missile fell into the water after flying about 190 kilometers.

He also mentioned that coalition forces have taken more than 4,000 Iraqi prisoners of war.

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