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500 Iraqi Fighters Killed in Last Two Days

500 Iraqi Fighters Killed in Last Two Days

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IN SOUTHERN IRAQ (AP) -- About 500 Iraqi fighters have been killed in the last two days by the 3rd Infantry Division's tanks and mechanized units as they swept through southern Iraq, according to reports reaching ground forces command.

The estimate came Tuesday from Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston of V Corps, who oversees the 3rd Infantry Division.

Preston said U.S. forces ran into "a lot" of Iraqi tanks and anti-aircraft weaponry and "thousands and thousands" of weapons around the city of Najaf.

'This could have been very ugly, but they're not very motivated," Preston said of the regular Iraqi army recruits. "I think a lot of them wanted to go home."

Many of the Iraqis appeared to have very low morale, he reported, adding that family members were seen pick up dead soldiers and taking them home for burial.

U.S. troops were stopping civilian vehicles and interrogating people, he added.

Asked about his division's plans, he replied simply: "Baghdad. That's where we're going, one step at a time."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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