U.S. forces close in on Baghdad

Posted 12:05 p.m. April 10

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

U.S. forces stormed into Baghdad Monday morning, in an unusual daylight attack on Iraq’s capital city.

The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry division reached the center of the city and swept into the Republican Palace, Saddam Hussein’s main office and security compound.

U.S. forces also took up positions around other government installations throughout the heavily deserted city, including the Information Ministry, the Rashid Hotel and a downtown army base. U.S. soldiers did meet some resistance as pockets of Iraqi soldiers were spotted along the route to the palace.

On Saturday, more than three dozen tanks and military vehicles staged a raid into downtown Baghdad, with Central Command estimating over 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi fighters killed during the skirmish. The U.S. pulled out of the city, but remained on the borders, cutting off Baghdad from the rest of Iraq.

The U.S. also gained control of Baghdad International Airport early Friday. A U.S. C-130 military transport touched down at the airport Sunday, the first U.S. plane to do so. Control of the airport will be necessary for supplies, as U.S. forces run low after their long drive through the desert.

“We do control the highways in and out of the city and do have the capability to interdict, to stop, to attack any Iraqi military forces that might try to either escape or to engage our forces,” Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

“We are barely past the two weeks of this war, and already we’ve made enormous progress,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on Fox News Sunday. “And our troops are outside of Baghdad, control Baghdad International Airport. The feared Republican Guard has suffered enormous losses. And it’s clear where the end is.”

In a message on read on Iraqi radio and television Sunday, Saddam Hussein called on Iraqi soldiers separated from their original units to join any other unit and attack the American soldiers. His message suggests the fragmentation that has occurred due to coalition forces on the Iraqi military and Republican Guard.

Pace told reporters that the Republican Guard’s main weapons systems are gone and the force cannot assemble more than 1,000 men in any one place.

“They are extremely weakened, but that does not mean they’re finished,” Pace said.

In the South, British forces took control of Basra, Iraq’s second largest city. Three dozen tanks and armored cars entered the city of 1.3 million, ending a two-week standoff.

Also in Basra, the house of Hussein’s cousin, Gen. Ali Hassan Majeed, was destroyed by allied warplanes. It is not yet known if Majeed was killed in the attack. Majeed is known as “Chemical Ali” because he ordered the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds in the late 1980s.

So far, coalition forces have not found the signs or biological, chemical or nuclear weapons that the U.S. and other nations accused Hussein of possessing.

“We haven’t found anything yet,” U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks told reporters. “We think that the places where it’s most likely to be found, we haven’t even gotten to most of them yet. There’s a considerable number out there where there could be weapons of mass destruction or evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs. So we’re not ruling anything out at this point, whether they will be there or not.”

Also over the weekend, Wolfowitz told reporters that it would take more than six months for an Iraqi government to be created after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. He said that the U.S. would not select the country’s new leaders and would allow the people of Iraq to decide the makeup of the new government.

“Our goal is to have a legitimate Iraqi government that represents the Iraqi people,” Wolfowitz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

On the home front, American public opinion still runs high on the war. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows that support for the war stands at 71 percent with 55 percent of people participating saying they believe the war will be over in three months or less. Even with support high, protestors still take to the streets of towns and cities across the U.S. and abroad.

Last week Congress voted to give $80 billion for the initial cost of the war. Senators approved their measure 93-0 and the House adopted a similar bill by 414-12. Many in Congress who originally opposed the war voted for the funding citing the fact that the war is in progress and it does need funding.

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