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U.S. Halts Tomahawk Launches over Saudi

U.S. Halts Tomahawk Launches over Saudi

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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- The United States halted Tomahawk cruise missile launches over parts of Saudi Arabia after the kingdom complained some of the weapons landed in the vast desert country, the Central Command said Saturday.

The problems apparently involved missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean and Red seas, said Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart. He said launch procedures would be reviewed to "make sure that we don't have a systems problem that we might not have been aware of."

He said the United States was trying to fix the problem and would "go back with the Saudis and work to resume those (launches) when it's appropriate."

Renuart confirmed a suicide attack north of Najaf on Saturday in which four American soldiers were killed when a car bomb exploded at a U.S. checkpoint.

Renuart said the soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division were killed at 10:40 a.m. He called the attack "a symbol of an organization that's starting to get a little bit desperate."

A taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, and the driver waved for help, Capt. Andrew Wallace said. Five soldiers approached the car and it exploded, Wallace told Associated Press Television News.

Renuart confirmed reports that U.S. forces had found the bodies of some troops in shallow graves near Nasiriyah, where a fierce battle has raged for days.

He said American forensic investigators were going to the grave sites. Renuart said he could not say how many bodies had been found.

The Army's 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers in the area last Sunday. At least two 507th soldiers were killed, and the Defense Department said eight more were missing and five were prisoners of war.

"We will also approach it from an aspect to ensure there were no war crimes committed in their deaths," Renuart said.

Renuart's deputy, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, outlined some troop operations from Friday night, including an air support mission against Iraqi compounds in Rutbah, in the western desert near the Saudi and Jordanian borders.

Also in western Iraq, special operations forces stopped 30 men in civilian clothes carrying mortars, Iraqi military uniforms, petroleum bombs and cash, he said.

In a raid of an Iraqi commando headquarters responsible for operations in the western desert, Army Rangers captured 50 fighters, weapons, gas masks and a large cache of ammunition, he said.

North of Karbala, Apache helicopters hit the Republican Guards' Medina division, destroying tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, and some surface-to-air missile radars, Renuart said.

He denied there was a so-called "operational pause" in the advance north to Baghdad but said the coalition's focus was on moving logistical support to units for now.

Renuart acknowledged Iraqi forces have attacked supply lines, but said the groups of enemy fighters were getting smaller, particularly in Samawa, Basra and Nasiriyah -- places where coalition forces have been engaged in nearly daily skirmishes.

Brooks said 200 paramilitary fighters were killed in a coalition airstrike Friday night northeast of the besieged city of Basra. He said it was one of nine strikes against Baath Party headquarters in Iraq.

"Each time we make one of these attacks we continue to degrade the regime," Renuart said.

British forces have encircled Basra, the second largest Iraqi city, for days after meeting unexpectedly stiff resistance on the push toward Baghdad.

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

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