The phantom column (120 = 3)

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Thu Mar 27 06:23:41 MST 2003

 AP World Politics

British forces backed by coalition strikes pound column of Iraqi armored
vehicles outside of Basra
Wed Mar 26, 3:51 PM ET

By DOUG MELLGREN and NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

NEAR BASRA, Iraq - British and U.S. aircraft pounded a convoy of Iraqi tanks
and armored vehicles that was streaming out of the beseiged southern city of
Basra late Wednesday, British military sources said.

The sources estimated the column at about 120 vehicles, heading southeast
along the main road toward Abadan. They said it appeared the Iraqis were
using the sandstorm that had blanketed the region to try to sneak out.

[My reaction, like some of yours, was: what the hell are they up to moving a
column of 120 vehicles SOUTHEAST from Basra "on the road toward Abadan"
which is in Iran? - lp]

Iraqi Column Outside Basra Wrecked -Britain
Thu Mar 27, 3:53 AM ET  Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By John Chalmers

AS SAYLIYA CAMP, Qatar (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces destroyed much of a
column of Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles that attempted to move south from
Iraq (news - web sites)'s second city of Basra overnight, a British military
official said on Thursday.

The official, speaking at U.S. Central Command forward headquarters in
Qatar, said initial reports of the battle indicated that "a lot of the
column was repelled and destroyed."

The armored column -- estimated to be between 70 and 120 vehicles -- left
the southeastern part of Basra on Wednesday and was moving down the Faw
peninsula when it was engaged by U.S. and British warplanes and artillery,
officials said.

It was unclear why the column quit Basra toward a major British force when
U.S-led air forces have control of the skies.

"If they're fleeing they're going the wrong way. It's pretty silly to go
toward the Royal Marines," a British military official told Reuters.

A television reporter with British marines south of Basra put the size of
the convoy at between 70 and 120 vehicles and said the battle raged through
the night.

"Many tanks have been destroyed, many are on fire now," Clive Myrie
reported. "Every now and again the area here shakes with the thud of
missiles and bombs going into that column."

He said that the pullout of the column seemed "suicidal."

Defense analyst Andrew Dorman told on Sky TV: "They're either panicking...or
they're taking advantage of the conditions (sandstorms) to engage the
coalition forces and offset their technological advantage."

[What a detailed account!  But it turns out that this was all "merely
corroborative verisimilitude", in Pooh-Bah's words:]

= = = = = = = = = = =
AP, March 27:
(In a story by Jill Lawless with a chemical weapons scare headline)

Hoon said reports of a large Iraqi armored column, with up to 120 vehicles,
moving out of Basra Wednesday night proved to be wildly exaggerated.

"It turned out to be three tanks advancing out of Basra. Those tanks were
dealt with. They were destroyed," Hoon said.

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