As U.S. and British warplanes pounded Iraqi defensive positions around Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden taxi at a U.S. checkpoint near the city of Najaf. Four U.S. soldiers died in the first such attack of the war, which U.S. officials said was terrorism.

In Nasiriyah, where U.S. forces seized two bridges over the Euphrates River that are crucial to the movement of U.S. supply convoys, Marines attempting to create a wider security zone around the bridges engaged several firefights with Iraqi soldiers and militiamen. Marines also have turned up several shallow graves around the city over the past two days, and they were trying to determine whether the bodies were those of U.S. troops.

Near the southern port of Basra, coalition warplanes bombed a meeting hall where intelligence report said 200 members of Iraq's ruling Baath Party had been meeting.

Basra under siege

Ten days into the war, Iraqi army regulars and members of the Saddam's Fedayeen militia have interspersed themselves among civilians in Basra, leaving British commandos wondering aloud whether they will have to enter the city and face house-to-house combat with hard-core fighters. Many soldiers and even some nearby Iraqi villagers are asking: If Basra has proven so difficult, how much more problematic will it prove for U.S. troops to conquer Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein's capital?

Criticism from abroad

A sense of outrage at President Bush and the United States fell over the Arab world as television networks and newspapers reported a U.S. air assault that Iraqi officials said killed 58 people at a vegetable market in Baghdad. In addition, Pope John Paul II warned that the fighting could unleash a "religious catastrophe," whipping up hatred between Christians and Muslims. Russian President Vladimir Putin also described the war in catastrophic terms and said he would push for negotiations to end the conflict.

Message from Camp David

President Bush encouraged his senior generals to keep their sights on Baghdad despite the unexpected resistance still plaguing allied forces far to the south of the Iraqi capital. During a teleconference yesterday morning at Camp David with senior advisers, one senior official said, Bush supported their plan to prepare for a ground offensive against the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's most fearsome forces, without awaiting the arrival of additional forces, some of which are weeks, even months, from being ready to fight.

-- T.A. Frail