Powerful sandstorms across Iraq have forced US and British ground troops to at least temporarily halt their advance toward Baghdad.
Witnesses say the swirling sand has reduced visibility to a few meters and made it difficult for vehicles and helicopters to move about safely.
However, US and British warplanes that can fly above the storms continue to bomb troops of Iraq's elite Republican Guard on the southern approaches to Baghdad. Fresh airstrikes hit the outskirts of Baghdad today (Tuesday) after nightfall.
One group of coalition troops is positioned at the city of Karbala, 90 kilometers south of Baghdad. Further east, a group of several thousand U-S Marines has moved 25 kilometers north of Nasiriyah, where the Marines fought their way past heavy Iraqi resistance early today (Tuesday). In a statement read today on Iraqi television, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appealed to Iraqi tribes to attack the invading U-S and British forces without waiting for orders.
Meanwhile, a reporter for Britain's Sky News traveling with British troops says a popular uprising against the Iraqi leadership has started in Iraq's second largest city, Basra. U-S and British officials say they cannot confirm the report, and Iraq's Information Minister, Mohammed al-Sahhaf, has denied it.
British and Iraqi forces have been fighting running battles around the Iraqi-controlled city for several days. Britain declared the city a military target earlier today (Tuesday), and a British military spokesman said coalition forces captured the local leader of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
British officers also say their troops have finally crushed Iraqi resistance in the port city of Umm Qasr, making it safe for the coalition to ship in basic provisions and humanitarian aid. British forces also claimed to have control of the city last weekend, only to be hit by ambushes from Iraqi troops and militiamen.