Troops forcing their way to Baghdad

ALLIED troops today sped on towards Baghdad - but at a price.Six British servicemen were killed in a mid-air collision between two helicopters, pushing the UK death toll to 14 following another aircraft accident yesterday.

ALLIED troops today sped on towards Baghdad - but at a price.

Six British servicemen were killed in a mid-air collision between two helicopters, pushing the UK death toll to 14 following another aircraft accident yesterday.

British TV reporter Terry Lloyd and two of his news crew were missing after coming under fire while travelling towards Iraq's second city of Basra.

Meanwhile it was reported that four US soldiers had been killed in central Iraq.


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But the US commander leading military operations said there was "no doubt" the coalition would achieve its objectives.

General Tommy Franks said: "The outcome is in no doubt. There may well be difficult days ahead but the forces in the field will achieve the objectives that have been set out by the governments of this coalition.'

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mf Today's early morning mid-air crash between two Royal Navy helicopters came only 24 hours after a US helicopter crashed in the Kuwaiti desert, killing eight Royal Marines and four US personnel.

The Sea Kings collided at about 4.30am local time (1.30am British time), killing six British aircrew and one US Navy officer in what military commanders described as a "tragic accident'.

The Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopters were stationed on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and came from a squadron based at Culdrose in Cornwall.

Flowers were laid outside the victims' air base near Helston, Cornwall, as Royal Navy personnel contacted families of the crew, from 849 Squadron Airborne Surveillance and Control.

Ark Royal's captain, Alan Massey, said the crash appeared to be a "tragic accident' and the deaths were a "huge loss'.

ITV reporter Terry Lloyd, cameraman Fred Nerac and local translator Hussein Othman were all missing after they came under fire at Iman Anas, near Basra.

Another cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was injured as the crew drove towards the city in two vehicles, but he was able to get to safety.

He was not able to see what happened to his colleagues, and coalition and Iraqi military sources were unable to confirm their whereabouts.

British and Iraqi forces were in the area at the time.

"Every effort is being made to establish what happened,' an ITN statement said.

Sky News reported that four US soldiers had been killed in central Iraq.

If correct, that would take the US death toll so far to 11.

Four servicemen were killed in the helicopter crash near the Iraqi border in Kuwait yesterday, while one died with six Britons in today's accident.

Inside Iraq, two US Marines have been killed by enemy fire.

General Franks, at a news conference at his headquarters in Qatar, said the campaign would be "unlike any other in history'.

He said: "The campaign will be characterised by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.'

He said he had "no idea' of the whereabouts of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but said the regime was be coalition action.sion that is going on within the regime. I believe command and control is not exactly as advertised on Baghdad television.'

He indicated lition forces on the outskirtsity, but would 'work with the citizens of Basra' to ahe battle for Basra was well with coalition troops trying to surround Iraqisitions and force a surrender.

US aircraft bombed Iraqi tey bridges and American troops seized the airport north of the city.

Iraqi forces fought back with artillery fire and heavy machine guns.

Earlier an entire Iraqi army division defending Basra gave itself up. The 51st Infantry Division, with 8,000 men and as many as 200 tanks, was the largest defection yet.

To the north west, troops secured the strategic town of Nassiriya, US Navy Captain Frank Thorp said, adding that the US Army was proceeding along the western route north towards Baghdad while the Marines were taking the eastern route.

Columns of black smoke were seen over Baghdad today, reportIraqi troops setting fire to oil containers in a bid to obscure targets from further allied air attacks after last night's "shock and awe' bmbardment in which more than 300 Tomahawk cruise missiles rained Earlier today, Baghdad was targeted again. The nine-storey Security Headquarters took a direct hit, spraying bricks, masonry glass across the street.

Meanwhile concerns remained over rep Turkish troops crossed into the Kurdish-controlled area of northe Geoff Hoon said today that Britain wove, saying it was "consistentith a border polig operation.'

The news emerged soon after Turkey and agreed to let US combat aircraft use its airspace.

The International Red Cross reported that at least 100 people were wounded during the bombardment of Baghdad last night.

Iraqi Health Minister Umeed Midhat Mubarak said reports suggested three Iraqis were killed.

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