SOUTHERN IRAQ – U.S. ground troops crossed into southern Iraq from Kuwait on Thursday during the second night of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Iraq.
Reporters traveling with the 1st Marine Division into Iraq saw burning oil wells that sent a black cloud into the night sky under a nearly full moon.
The Marines also had some skirmishes with Iraqi troops. They opened fire with machine guns on an Iraqi T-55 tank and finally destroyed it with a Javelin, a portable anti-missile.
There were no immediate details on the size and makeup of the entering force, or the location of incursion.
During the day, U.S. forces in northern Kuwait opened a thundering barrage of artillery across the desert border, along with volleys of rockets.
There were reports that the border had been breached earlier by British forces. A reporter for The Times of London reported that Royal Marine Commandos had crossed into southern Iraq and swept into the Al Faw peninsula. There were reports that British forces had captured the port city of Umm Qasr on the edge of al-Faw.
The attack came at the end of a day that began with allied troops at the other end of the gun barrel, as Iraq — responding to the American bombardment of Baghdad and other targets — launched missiles into Kuwait, where the allied forces were primed to attack.
During the Scud missile launches, Marines in the 1st Marine Division put on their full chemical suits — masks, gloves and full combat gear — three times in less than two hours.