A British army spokesman said that the area had been captured in a combined airborne and amphibious assault involving UK marines and other coalition forces.

However, the BBC World Service reported at 12:00 GMT that Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only deepwater port and a key element of any post-invasion reconstruction plan, was still in Iraqi hands. A BBC Television report that Kirkuk had been taken by the coalition was still not confirmed. Umm Qasr is close to Kuwait’s northern border.