BAGHDAD, April 1 (UPI) -- A top Iraqi official said Tuesday that U.S. warplanes hit two buses carrying people acting as human shields and called U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a "cheap liar."
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said 56 Iraqi civilians had been killed 268 others injured by coalition bombing Monday and Tuesday. He said Iraqi forces downed an Apache helicopter, repulsed coalition forces in southern Iraq and foiled a British landing in the north.
None of the reports could be verified, although coalition officials have not reported the recent loss and any helicopters.
Al-Sahhaf called on the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to check on Iraqi prisoners, whom he said were all civilians captured by the coalition. Coalition spokesman have said that thousands of Iraqi soldiers have been captured and visits by Red Cross personnel have begun and complained that Iraq had not allowed similar visits for their POWs.
Al-Sahhaf said the correspondent of the Iraqi News Agency in the Rutba town in the province of Anbar close to the Iraqi-Jordanian border sent preliminary reports that a U.S. warplane on Monday attacked two buses on the Baghdad-Amman highway. He said the buses were carrying volunteers, including U.S. and European citizens, to Baghdad to protect Iraqi power, water and other vital installations.
Al-Sahhaf gave detailed figures of what he said were civilian deaths and injures because of coalition bombings. Most of those killed were in Baghdad, he said, but added that civilian deaths occurred in at least five other towns. Coalition leaders have said they are careful to target only military and government facilities and say civilian causalities are often because Iraqi forces are using civilians as shields.
Al-Sahhaf, however, reiterated accusations that coalition forces have been targeting civilian quarters in different Iraqi cities, including farms, telephone centers as well as TV and radio transmitters.
"They started to kill Iraqis indiscriminately. They are racist," he said. "They are bombarding civilian quarters day after day. They are becoming more tense and hysterical as they are achieving nothing and suffering increased casualties."
Al-Sahhaf reported fierce battles with British troops in Abul al Khasib and with U.S. forces in Az Zubair and Talha near Basra as well as in An Nasiriyah and southern Najaf. He said the Saddam Fedayeen, Baath Party combatants, army units, tribesmen and militias "confronted the attackers and forced them to retreat."
He added that an Apache helicopter was shot down while seven tanks and two armored personnel carriers were destroyed. Those figures could not be confirmed.
Al-Sahhaf said Iraqi fighters foiled an attempt by British troops to land in the area of Baaj near the northern region of Mosul on Monday and backed his claim by saying al-Jazeera television has shown footage of the battle.
He said the British soldiers "have been mostly eliminated and few of them managed to flee by helicopters while Saddam Fedayeen seized most of their equipment, including tanks."
"It's a complete defeat. The results were very tragic to the British," he said.
Coalition forces have not commented on the allegation.
Al-Sahhaf lashed out at Rumsfeld, whom he described as a "cheap liar," for maintaining that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.
"He (Rumsfeld) is telling lies," he said, asking why Rumsfeld did not supply U.N. weapons inspectors with information on Iraq's alleged weaponry while they were in Baghdad.
Asked how would this war end, he said: "The result of this aggression against Iraq will be the defeat of the invasion and we don't consider it as a defeat of the U.S. people."
He said "those miserable in the White House" do not represent the U.S. people and "we are fighting those miserable war criminals and aggressive invaders and not the U.S. and British people."
"We have nothing against the U.S. and British people. We are fighting against the invaders. I have full confidence we will defeat them," he said.
(Dalal Saoud in Beirut contributed to this report.)
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