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Iraqi Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad has given a detailed account of military activities on 20-21 March, saying matters accelerated following the speech by the "criminal Bush". Ahmad said that the US military deployment was at first close to the Jordanian border, but this expanded to desert areas where Iraqi troops were nonexistent: "Their aim was to look for missile launching pads to ensure that Israel would not be hit by missiles that they claim to be still in existence and with which they said we might attack Israel," he added. The minister explained the attack against Umm al-Qasr, saying that "the enemy" tried "in vain" to dislodge the brigade stationed there. He added: "Until now, until this minute, the brigade is still steadfast in its positions. It inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. It withdrew a little to secure its firepower." The following is the text of a recording of a news conference by Ahmad and Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf, broadcast by Iraqi satellite TV on 21 March; subheadings inserted editorially:
Al-Sahhaf Two days have now passed since the beginning of the unjust US-British-Zionist aggression on Iraq. We are pleased to hear from the defence minister a clear briefing on what happened during the first two days of the unjust US-British aggression against Iraq. Please go ahead, Mr Minister.
Ahmad Thank you very much. In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. Brothers, before I start my briefing, I would like to show viewers the geography of the theatre of operations on which the enemy activities focused on 20-21 March. We will be assisted by the map in front of you. This is Basra, in the southernmost part of the country, the Umm Qasr terminal, and then the Al-Faw terminal and Safwan. Al-Rumaylah was another point of major action. In that area, there are the known northern and southern oil wells. It is an important area, towards which there was a major enemy movement. The third movement is towards the city of Al-Nasiriyah. There are sporadic activities in the desert area on our border with Jordan, at the Al-Rutbah area, and at the 160-km milestone.
Acceleration of events with Bush ultimatum
As you are aware, following the speech by the criminal Bush, it became clear that the enemy was preparing for the attack. So things were accelerating. Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraq, to his shame. We expected it to take place. At 0545 on 20 March, the enemy began missile attacks on the city of Baghdad. He fired missiles on the great Baghdad, Baghdad of the great leader Saddam Husayn. On the second day, the enemy fired more missiles. We will discuss this later.
On 20 March, the enemy carried out reconnaissance operations using helicopters and small groups of Marines and reconnaissance units in the Al-Rutbah area and between Al-Rutbah and the 160-km milestone on the road, close to Al-Walid Airbase near Akashah. These are small groups landed by helicopters, consisting of four to five reconnaissance vehicles protected by armed helicopters and an aerial umbrella if they are exposed to threats from our units. These patrols could be moved from one place to another. These patrols were dealt with. I will explain this later.
At the beginning, the US military deployment was very close to the Jordanian border. Then the deployment expanded in the area. The areas in which they expanded were in the desert where our units are nonexistent. The declared aim was that the elements are deployed in the desert to look for missile launching pads to ensure that Israel would not be hit by missiles that they claim still exist and with which, they said, we might attack Israel.
Umm Qasr operation
On the evening of 20 March, the enemy began to intercept our units. This was followed by very intensive missile and aerial bombardment on the units of the III Army Corps, on the command post, and on other sectors words indistinct towards Umm Qasr. The enemy approached Umm Qasr from land from two directions: From an area between Umm Qasr and Safwan, and from the other direction, close to the coast. words indistinct the position in which the 25th Brigade was stationed and in which it is still stationed.
The enemy attempted more than once to move the brigade from its position, but the enemy did not succeed in gaining any foothold in the brigade's position. It tried to surround the brigade from the left flank, but it failed to achieve anything.
So far, up to this minute, the brigade is holding onto its positions. It inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, but the enemy could not take out its losses from its positions. It withdrew a little to avoid our fire. Now the enemy is stationed in front of the 45th Brigade. The clashes now are carried out with artillery. They also withdrew a certain distance to protect their units.
words indistinct maintained the momentum in the direction of the sea. The enemy could not achieve anything from its heavy artillery shelling. It was able to deploy some detachments on Platform No 10 words indistinct . On 20 March, he was not able to gain a foothold in the sector of the 45th Brigade. The enemy, however, was able to gain a foothold on Platform No 10. It was able to do so one or two hours before I came here. Thus, the enemy took a foothold on this platform and we expect the enemy to reinforce it words indistinct . Our units are now dealing with the situation. It is true that it set up a bridgehead at that place, but it cannot expand because the units are holding onto their positions. The battle is expected to continue tonight. Those who are fighting in this direction are the British.
At the same time, the enemy landed units north of the city of Al-Faw in preparation to attack the city and units with artillery. It landed its units in a vacant area, in an area between Al-Faw and Al-Ma'amir platform. Small groups infiltrated into the area. They were dealt with, but the enemy managed to reinforce its presence. During this period, it reinforced its presence but remained surrounded in the area, believing that it is surrounding our units in Al-Faw. Our units are defending the city, supported by all the Iraqis who are in Al-Faw. Despite the enemy's reinforcements, the units are still in their positions up to this moment. Sound of explosions heard in background
All employees are in the city, in addition to the units that were in it. However, the enemy went beyond the city and moved to the Al-Ma'amir area, to an area between the oil area and Al-Ma'amir, which is 3-4 km north of Al-Faw.
This is almost the situation as it is now in the Al-Faw and Basra sectors. In the Al-Rumaylah sector, the enemy came from the Kuwaiti border too. The enemy advanced north and west of Safwan towards the known oil wells in Al-Rumaylah area. This area is defended by the 704th Brigade. This brigade is holding fast, just like the other brigade, the 45th Brigade. The 704th and 45th Brigades have a history in war. They have a history in the glorious Saddam's Al-Qadisiyah Iraq -Iran war . It was one of the best units. It fought the enemy very well, and they continue to do so.
The enemy attacked the 704th Brigade from other axes. It then attacked other regiments to the left. The brigade clashed with the enemy units. As you know, the enemy units are superior in technology, helicopter gunships, and air force. They bombarded the brigade with air force and helicopter gunships. Yet the brigade is steadfast and is fighting the enemy in an exemplary way.
The enemy continued to advance from Al-Rumaylah, seeking two targets, which, as I said, are the oil area, which is located behind Al-Faw, and Al-Rumaylah, which the enemy considered a war target. The enemy sought to reach words indistinct due to the sound of strong explosions coinciding with the news conference .
They are after the Umm Qasr terminal, the oil of Al-Rumaylah, and Al-Faw, where there are terminals from which we export oil. Therefore, the enemy thought that this would be booty in the early stages of the battle with us.
It moved to bypass southern Al-Rumaylah towards northern Al-Rumaylah, so it clashed with the units in northern Al-Rumaylah, about 7-8 km from our units in the northern Al-Rumaylah area words indistinct . The enemy sent another motorized convoy, seeking to approach Basra City. It surrounded the 704th Brigade and moved towards the east, seeking to approach Basra. It clashed with our units in that area, and stopped at that area, close to the word indistinct area, about 10 km away from it.
A short summary of this situation and the enemy's activity in this area between southern Al-Rumaylah and Umm Qasr will show that the enemy is seeking to besiege the port and the area from southern or northern Al-Rumaylah, in order to besiege Basra from the south, west, and southwest. This is the enemy's objective. This was the situation until a few minutes ago. This was the situation. Al-Faw is in our hands, our units are in it, we are maintaining communication with them, and we are ready to defend it, to make sacrifices until Almighty God decrees what He wants. They are all potential martyrs in the defence of the country and homeland.
Regarding Umm Qasr, just as I described it, it is just the platform in the enemy's hands. All our units are in their positions. The formations and all the units of the 45th Brigade are in their positions. This is a summary of the enemy's activities in the sector of Al-Rumaylah and the sector of Umm Qasr, Safwan, and Al-Faw.
The beginning of time was 2100 as heard , the enemy sent a convoy towards the Al-Nasiriyah road. This convoy was divided into two parts. One part headed towards Suq al-Shuyukh and clashed with our units there, with the tribes and the party troops, and then stopped. words indistinct due to sound of explosions The other part of the convoy - before I came to you now - was engaged with the units of the heroic 11th Division. They burned five enemy carriers approximately half an hour ago. The soldiers saw them while they were burning in front of them. One should expect that when the enemy clashes with our units, it immediately tries to divert its direction outside the range of our fire and towards the desert, to avoid a direct clash with our units. Of course, this took place in Umm Qasr. It tried to head towards the left side to besiege the 45th Brigade. This also happened in Al-Rumaylah. It tried to go to the left to avoid our units' firing and to go to northern Al-Rumaylah. This also applies to Al-Nasiriyah.
The enemy's objective now is one of two possible things: The first is if it stops in Al-Nasiriyah - although its objective is far beyond this, and perhaps it has reconnaissance elements words indistinct . This is expected, especially since it is an open desert area that would help and tempt it to advance towards the south of Al-Nasiriyah. This is a very strong possibility. This is first. words indistinct which we spoke about in the beginning, which is still continuing. The enemy is now present in this area, which we mentioned, from south of Al-Rutbah to the Saudi border, and from Al-Rutbah in the north to the Jordanian border in the north and east. The enemy is present up to line 160 in small detachments. Immediately after we receive information, the party and tribal troops in the area go to confront them.
When the enemy sees the units approaching, it withdraws and leaves the area. But detachments words indistinct . The enemy asks shepherds in the area whether there are missile platforms in the area. But all the Iraqis words indistinct . The people, party, carry out activities. They destroyed two armoured vehicles in the Al-Rutbah area. They set them on fire today. They continue their activities and the enemy does the same.
The enemy has a specific objective to attain. The enemy exploits its superiority in term of helicopters and air power, which enables it to transport light equipment from one place to the other. In this short period of time, I would like to present this short briefing of the enemy's activities for 20 and 21 March. The upshot of all this is that what has happened has not been a surprise to us. As you know, the major enemy objective is not to occupy a port and take up positions in it or to occupy a certain area and take up positions in it. The planning of the command, headed by leader President Saddam Husayn, may God protect him, is that we must prevent the enemy from achieving its objective. The enemy's major objective is known.
"Major battle" expected
I expect that the major battle that will begin today for the enemy will be confronted by cities and by our units that will defend the cities. There will certainly be losses. The enemy views the 45th Brigade as words indistinct . There is fierce fighting; the units have excellent combat experience. They say that they have one killed. The enemy says it has only one dead in spite of these battles. The world knows how much the enemy tells the truth and how much it depends on lies and manoeuvres to conceal its losses from its people. This is in addition to the fact that the enemy has no justification to attack Iraq. The enemy is an aggressor and the aggressor will be defeated, God willing.
We have deep faith in God and have great confidence in our leadership. We are defending our country, our values, and religion. We will be victorious because God supports us. We have great confidence in God and believe that jihad is the right course, for all the values espoused by any honest man dictate that people defend this land as it deserves, for this is our country.
God willing, the unjust enemy will always be defeated, remain frustrated, and fail to achieve any of its dreams. We ask God to support us against them and safeguard the leader, God willing. Thank you very much.
Al-Sahhaf I thank you very much. You have noticed that we held this news conference while the bombardment continues. In spite of this, we will defeat them, God willing. Thank you very much. Video shows defence minister addressing reporters with information minister seated on his left
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