Bodies Found As U.S. POW Is Rescued

U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, seen in this undated photo, was captured March 23 after her 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. The 19-year-old Army supply clerk was rescued from a hospital in that city by U.S. commandos on April 1. AP

Coalition forces are pushing ever closer to Baghdad - less than 40 miles away in some cases, and fighting the Iraqi Republican Guard near the Islamic holy city of Karbala - against a roller coaster backdrop of dramatic developments from other fronts in the war.

Tuesday brought news of first the freedom of four Western journalists who had been missing for more than a week in Iraq, and then, the successful rescue by special operations forces of an American POW missing since March 23.

But Wednesday, a military spokesman in Qatar was forced to add a grim note to the joy over the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, a POW since March 23.

U.S. officials are now confirming that 11 bodies were found in the same An Nasiriyah hospital where special ops troops were able to locate and rescue Lynch, who was among as many as 16 soldiers listed as missing after they were captured in An Nasiriyah.

Five others from her same unit are listed as POWs, after being shown as prisoners on Iraqi television.

Navy Capt. Frank Thorp, a U.S. Central Command spokesman in Qatar, says it is not yet known whether any of the bodies in the hospital raid Tuesday are Americans.

Thorp says the 11 were not killed during the rescue operation. A forensic team will examine the bodies.

Referring to the bodies found during the rescue operation, a U-S Central Command spokesman says "We have reason to believe some of them were Americans."

Lynch's unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed in An Nasiriyah after making a wrong turn.

Sources quoted by the Washington Post say Lynch was split off from the other members of her unit following their capture, and no other POWs were found near the hospital during her rescue.

The newspaper also says it was CIA operatives who figured out where Lynch was being held, and Navy SEALs and Army Rangers who staged the actual rescue raid - at about midnight local time.

CBS News has learned that Lynch is now in the hospital in Kuwait, where she is undergoing surgery for unspecified injuries. She is to be transferred to a U.S. military hospital in Germany as soon as she is well enough to travel.

U.S. military officials were able to bring the news of Lynch's rescue to her family Tuesday night, where residents of her tiny hometown - Palestine, West Virginia - were overcome with joy and held an impromptu parade.

On the ground in Iraq - U.S. Marines are now less than 40 miles outside Baghdad, after crossing the Saddam Canal and a key bridge over the Tigris River, winning a battle for control of the span and with it, control of a major highway.

Coalition forces are now advancing on Baghdad from the north, south and the west, in what appears to be the early stages of the ground assault on Baghdad, where air strikes continue.

Among the Baghdad targets of allied warplanes were a presidential palace along the Tigris River, and the offices of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which dissidents claim has been used as a torture center run by Odai, a son of Saddam Hussein.

Outside Karbala, about 50 miles from the Iraqi capital, U.S. Army units have been fighting soldiers from the Medina Division of Iraq's Republican Guard - which has been weakened by heavy air bombardment over the past few days.

CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports the Medina division is now rated at less than 40 percent combat effectiveness and a second division guarding the capital is even worse off, at less than 20 percent combat effectiveness.

The greatest danger for the Americans is still chemical attack. For the first time, U.S. troops are nearing the so-called red line the Iraqis have drawn on the map around Baghdad. Once they cross it, the Republican Guards are authorized to use chemical weapons.

The fighting near Karbala capped a day of aggressive American and British military action.

A Marine official said heavy bombing was carried out around Kut, southeast of Baghdad, adding that ground forces have secured an air base further to the south, at Qalat Sukkar, that could be used as a staging ground.

Further to the southwest, Marines claimed to have killed at least 80 Iraqi soldiers and taken dozens of prisoners in fighting near Diwaniyah. According to reports from the field, troops on a reconnaissance mission found fortified Iraqi positions along a line leading several miles to the city.

"They were shooting from buildings, from dugout positions, from holes, from everywhere," Cpl. Patrick Irish said of the Iraqis.

In Basra, warplanes dropped 500-pound and 1,000-pound laser-guided bombs on an Iraqi intelligence complex in an effort to dislodge die-hard defenders who have kept British forces at bay for days.

"What you're seeing today on the battlefield in Iraq is a continuation of prepping the battlefield for a major encounter with the Republican Guard," said Navy Capt. Frank Thorp.

In the port of Umm Qasr, which is firmly under British control, two would-be suicide bombers turned themselves in to coalition forces. "They didn't want to be suicide bombers any more," says British Col. Steve Cox. "We are accommodating them."

Lights in Umm Qasr came back on Tuesday for the first time in weeks, as the city began to adjust to its new situation. Some British forces there are now wearing berets in public, instead of helmets, in areas deemed safe.

In other developments:

  • Two U.S. Navy aviators were rescued by coalition forces after their F-14A Tomcat crashed because of mechanical problems. U.S. military officials are not releasing details and say only that a combat search and rescue team recovered the pilot and radar intercept officer and took them to a coaltion air base. Neither crewmember is said to have been seriously injured.

  • The total official U.S. death count in the war is now 51, plus 27 Britons. There are 15 Americans listed as missing and seven confirmed POW's. Iraqi officials have given no estimate of military casualties but have said at least 425 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded. British officials say 8,000 Iraqis have been taken prisoner so far.


  • Iraqi television has broadcast yet another statement supposedly from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who has not been seen in public or even on TV for quite some time. The Wednesday statement, read by an Iraqi news anchor in a military uniform, promises as usual that "victory is at hand." It also exhorts Iraqis to defend their towns and be aware that the Iraqi military has yet to use all of its military might.

    The message came a day after another statement - also said to be from Saddam - was read on television by Iraq's Information Minister, calling for holy war against coalition forces. Speculation that Saddam is either sick or dead has been fueled by the fact that he did not personally take to the airwaves to deliver what are supposed to be his own words to the Iraqi people.

  • American and British officials say growing numbers of Iraqi civilians are shedding their initial reluctance to assist forces fighting the Iraqi government. Troops have been working to win the trust of Iraqis, keeping in mind that many still recall promises of liberation in the 1991 Gulf War, only to find Saddam's forces returned unhindered when coalition forces withdrew.

  • British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called for a U.N.-sponsored international conference to choose Iraq's new leaders, and said reconstruction of the country is likely to take years.

  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused the Iraqi government of spreading false stories that the U.S. has been trying to negotiate an end to the war. "There are no negotiations taking place," says Rumsfeld. "There is no outcome to this war that will leave Saddam Hussein and his regime in power."

  • In Washington, the House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved packages of nearly $80 billion to begin paying for war and other security needs.

    • Joel Roberts

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