In Basra, a "couple of thousand" Iraqi civilians trying to flee the besieged city, which is encircled by British troops, were attacked by Iraqi paramilitary forces who opened fire on them with mortars and machine guns, British officials said.
As sporadic battles rage between American infantry and defiant Iraqi troops and paramilitary guerrillas, more armor and at least 100,000 reinforcing U.S. and allied troops are on their way to join the coalition force over the next few weeks.
In the interim, the American game plan is simple: bombs, bombs and more bombs.
In other major developments:
Thunderous explosions rocked Baghdad and a towering column of churning orange smoke rose over the skyline Friday after a break in the weather opened the way for the mightiest bombardment of the Iraqi capital in days.
The military rolled out new weapons — two 4,700-pound, satellite-guided "bunker busting" bombs were dropped from American B-2 bombers on a major communications tower on the east bank of the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. The bombs were twice the size of the bunker busting bombs that were being used before.
The bombing attack, aimed at disrupting communication between Saddam and his military leaders, gutted a seven-story telephone exchange, leaving the street strewn with rubble.
Air strikes also targeted positions of the Republican Guard, Saddam's best-trained, best-equipped fighters, in a ring outside the city.
Seven people were killed and 92 others wounded in the strikes, Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf said.
In Basra, members of Britain's 7th Armored Brigade were trying to neutralize the fire, evacuate the civilians and preparing to treat any casualties, said Lt. Col. Ronnie McCourt, a spokesman for British forces in the Gulf.
McCourt said a "couple of thousand" Iraqi civilians had tried to break out of the city in the north and west, but came under fire from Iraqi paramilitary forces inside.
McCourt said the 7th Armored Brigade fired on the Iraqis who were attacking the fleeing civilians.
"We are trying to save the people, return fire and rescue civilians," he said.
He said forces of the 1st Black Watch battalion in Warrior armored fighting vehicles were trying to wedge themselves between the militia fire and the civilian targets.
British forces have ringed the southern city — Iraq's second largest with a population of 1.3 million — in hopes of eliminating units still loyal to Saddam and opening the way for badly needed humanitarian aid.
"Our interpretation of this is here perhaps are the first pieces of evidence of Iraqi people trying to break free from the Baath party regime and the militia," Col. Chris Vernon, a spokesman in southern Iraq for British forces, told Sky News Television. "And clearly the militia don't want that. They want to keep their population in there, and they fired on them to force them back in."
Basra - Iraq's second largest city, and one dominated by a different ethnic group than that which rules the Iraqi government - has been struggling with food and water shortages for days.