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Iraqi forces bombarded in Basra

A British mortar platoon in action in the desert outside Basra
A British mortar platoon in action in the desert outside Basra

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BASRA, Iraq (CNN) -- British forces have been bombarding Iraqi forces around Basra with long-range artillery as they fight to secure Iraq's second biggest city.

The barrage late Wednesday and early Thursday targeted ruling Baath party and Iraqi military sites around the southern city, said CNN's Diana Muriel, embedded with the 7th Armored Brigade.

Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a spokesman for the British military at Central Command headquarters in Qatar, said Thursday the situation around Basra was "stabilizing by the day."

"We do get the odd bit of paramilitary fire but we deal with it very promptly. Progressively, and more importantly, the people are coming to us.

"They're providing us with information about where the paramilitaries are and who they are."

UK commanders said Wednesday they were confident they would overcome "venomous" resistance fighters to take the city. (Full story)

British forces Wednesday night lit the sky over Basra with flares, using the glow to map possible targets -- but also as a psychological tool to show the British military was watching and could essentially turn night into day, said Muriel.

She said British soldiers had received reports from Basra that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen fighters had been evicting residents so they could use their homes to fight coalition forces.

On Wednesday British troops and U.S. special forces took a food warehouse complex near Basra, stocked with hundreds of tons of food. It had been controlled by Fedayeen Saddam forces. (Full story)

- CNN correspondents Diana Muriel and Mike Boettcher contributed to this report


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