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Communist forces yesterday captured Quang Tri, the first provincial capital to fall during their 33-day-old offensive. It was the northernmost town still held by South Vietnamese troops.
The Communist victory opened the way for possible attacks on Hue, the former imperial capital, 32 miles south of Quang Tri. The Communists now control a 27 mile strip south of the demilitarized zone.
Several thousand South Vietnamese troops--and at least 20 Americans--attempted to battle their way south from Quang Tri last night, as efforts to defend the city were formally abandoned.
In other action, Communist forces extended their control over areas of the northern rice-rich province of Binh Dinh in the central coast area, and continued to pressure An Loc, 60 miles north of Saigon.
An Loc has been under siege since April 8. Heavy fighting on highways leading to the provincial capital continued yesterday.
Quiet prevailed in the central highlands, where another major battle for a provincial capital, Kontum, is expected to erupt at any time. Some officials yesterday predicted possible rocket attacks on Saigon itself.
American advisers in Saigon reported that nearly 250,000 refugees from Quang Tri were trying to get to Hue and eventually Da Nang, which, according to American intelligence sources, faces Viet Cong terrorist attacks.
In Binh Dinh, welfare officials said there "has been so much fighting the people don't know which way to run," and they estimated the number of refugees there at 35,000.
"But we don't expect there'll be much of a refugee problem to worry about by the end of the week. The city has taken a fearful artillery pounding," one social worker said.
The first wave of refugees deluged the Saigon area yesterday as fighting in the Mekong Delta increased. Refugees also flocked to Hue--already so crowded that its university has suspended classes to make room for families--as many Hue inhabitants began fleeing toward Da Nang.
In a speech to a select gathering of Texans at the south Texas ranch of Treasury Secretary John Connally, President Nixon said yesterday that "the South Vietnamese will be able to hold...provided the United States continues to furnish the air and naval support that we have been furnishing to stop this invasion."
Nixon reiterated that no American ground troops are involved in the current campaign and that none will be. But, noting that he had ordered bombing raids on the Hanoi-Haiphong area, he also said that "as this offensive continues...we will continue to make strikes on military targets throughout Vietnam.
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