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Mosul hit by intense airstrikes

From CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman

Kurds have been anxiously awaiting the start of a heavy air campaign.
Kurds have been anxiously awaiting the start of a heavy air campaign.

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KALAK, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition planes have stepped up their bombing campaign in northern Iraq, striking the key city of Mosul for the fourth night in a row.

CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman, who is in the northern town of Kalak, 28 miles east of Mosul, said the bombing was so intense the "windows of our house here shook fairly violently."

He called it the "most violent night of bombing since we've come here."

On Monday, coalition airstrikes also targeted Iraqi front-line positions near Chamchamal, where at least eight bombs fell, according to sources with Pesh Merga, the militia for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Kurds have been anxiously awaiting the start of a heavy air campaign and the opening of a northern front in the Iraq war, Wedeman said.

The Kurds live in a semiautonomous region of northern Iraq that has been under the protection of coalition aircraft in the northern no-fly zone since just after the end of the Gulf War.

U.S. Special Forces are reported to be in northern Iraq and plans are to put as many as 5,000 American troops in the area as part of a joint operation with the Kurds.

Kurdish troops in northern Iraq number between 60,000 and 70,000, but their forces have no tanks and only light arms.

What the Kurds can offer, however, is experience in confronting the Iraqi army, Wedeman said. Many of the Kurdish fighters are former members of the national force.

Iraqi troops in the north are believed to number around 125,000.

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