April 5 —
U.S. troops dashed inside Baghdad on Saturday, blasting targets
nestled in palm trees, to show they can move at will against Iraq's
beleaguered defenders. Allies adapted their air campaign to prepare
for a climactic ground assault on the capital.
Saddam Hussein's black-clad militia suddenly surfaced in downtown
Baghdad and Iraqi troops deployed at strategic city points at
nightfall, in preparation for a showdown.
But tens of thousands of citizens fled, no longer believing the
assurances of their leaders that the American ground campaign was
being beaten back.
U.S. officials declared a near chokehold on the capital even
while warning that many other parts of Iraq are not yet under allied
"They're pretty much cut off in all directions," Air Force Capt.
Dani Burrows, speaking for Central Command, said of Baghdad's
While acknowledging Americans raided a suburb, Iraqi leaders
talked bravely of prevailing.
"We were able to chop off their rotten heads," said a televised
statement from the Iraq military, claiming victories no one could
see. Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf warned
Iraqis against false claims "that the enemy has landed here or
there," clearly referring to TV footage of coalition forces in
Allied warplanes now are flying over Baghdad nonstop, using
munitions that include concrete-filled bombs meant to damage fixed
targets with less risk to civilian buildings nearby. The city awoke
to a hazy morning on Sunday and the sound of loud explosions.
Air strikes against the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's
loyalist Fedayeen militia and Arab fighters from outside the country
followed a daylight raid into Baghdad's industrial suburbs by at
least three dozen tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
The aim of the probing attack was to sap morale of the Iraqi
fighters, refute public claims of Iraqi officials that they are
winning, and perhaps spark surrender or overthrow of Saddam's
government. Americans lost at least one tank and an assault vehicle
in periodic firefights.
U.S. officials said they retooled their air strikes to support a
coming ground assault on the capital while hoping Iraqis would give
up the fight before bloody urban combat became necessary.
In one close-quarters skirmish, Marines with bayonets battled
Arab fighters from abroad in a marsh on Baghdad's southern
Two Marine pilots were killed Saturday when their Super Cobra
attack helicopter crashed in central Iraq. And the Pentagon
confirmed the first combat death of an American woman in the war
Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, of Tuba City, Ariz., a single mother of
Piestewa's body, and those of eight other American soldiers
caught in the same ambush, were found during the rescue of American
POW Jessica Lynch in Iraq. The death toll for the allied forces
passed 100, three-quarters of them American.
At sites scattered around the United States, there were memorials
Saturday for some of the slain, Marine Lance Cpl. Brian Rory Buesing
of Cedar Key, Fla., among them.
"We're not supposed to be doing this, you're not supposed to be
burying your children," Buesing's father, William Buesing III, said
during a service in Florida.
Bullish on Baghdad and their progress overall, U.S. officials
cautioned that allies did not have control in much of the country.
As well, they had only made an incursion in the capital, not staying
to hold ground.
"The fight is far from finished," Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart told a
briefing at Central Command's Qatar headquarters.
President Bush, spending the weekend at the Camp David retreat in
Maryland, looked beyond the battle for Baghdad to focus on postwar
rebuilding of Iraq, and prepared to meet with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair in Northern Ireland on Monday.
A convoy of armored vehicles from the 3rd Infantry Division
rolled into Baghdad, although apparently well away from downtown,
firing on trucks and other targets half-hidden by leaves and turning
them into fireballs.
During their trip into southwestern Baghdad, U.S. troops ran into
nests of intense resistance, drawing rocket-propelled grenades and
even anti-aircraft cannon, turned on them at ground level.
And on the airport road, Iraqi troops posed for Iraqi
photographers standing atop what they said were U.S. armored
personnel carriers destroyed in battle Friday and Saturday.
Renuart said the foray "was a clear statement of the ability of
coalition forces to move into Baghdad at the time and place of their
Iraqis were fleeing the city by the tens of thousands, some in
vehicles bearing improvised white flags made from torn-up towels or
In the evening, Baghdad's streets were bustling with Iraqi
troops, militia, loyalists from Saddam's Baath party and all manner
of armed men. Tanks and field artillery faced approaches most likely
to be used by the allies.
Members of the Fedayeen, a militia led by Saddam's son Odai,
appeared downtown for the first time since the war began, wearing
their distinctive black uniforms. The United States considers them
ill-trained but fanatical.
Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley, in charge of the air war, said from his
Saudi command post that the Republican Guard, backbone of the Iraqi
armed forces, has been hit so hard it "doesn't really exist
Some 6,500 Iraqi soldiers are in allied custody
In northern Iraq, Kurdish forces backed by U.S. warplanes drove
Iraqi forces farther back from Kurdish frontiers. The Kurds moved
within 20 miles of Kirkuk, Iraq's second largest oil center, and a
similar distance from the oil city of Khaneqin.
About 60 fighters, fighter-bombers and support aircraft from the
aircraft carrier the USS Roosevelt flew strike missions in the north
overnight Saturday to Sunday.
In the south, two allied aircraft struck the Basra residence of
Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, commander of southern forces.
He is known as Chemical Ali by opponents who accuse him of once
ordering the use chemical weapons against Kurds.
A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said Ali was believed to be home when his residence was
hit but that it was not known whether he was killed.
British forces discovered boxes containing hundreds of human
remains in a warehouse between Basra and Az Zubayr. Officials said
the remains were not from this war.
They also found a catalogue of photographs of the dead, some
indicating that the people had been shot.
Along Highway 6 on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, Marine
helicopters picked up a 5-year-old boy whose face had been blown
away by shrapnel, taking him and his father to an emergency medical
Marines also airlifted six other Iraqis for hospital treatment
and found that when one man's civilian clothes were cut open, he
wore a military uniform underneath.
Red Cross workers in Baghdad reported several hundred war wounded
and dozens of dead had been brought to four city hospitals since
"The hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with
the continuous influx of wounded," Muin Kassis of the International
Committee of the Red Cross said in Amman, Jordan.
Southwest of the capital, units of the 3rd Infantry captured the
abandoned headquarters of the Republican Guard's Medina division in
the town of Suwayrah.
An Army mechanic in his armored vehicle toppled a mosaic of
Saddam outside the headquarters, then took a sledgehammer to it.
Another soldier clutched the disembodied arm broken off a statue of
the Iraqi president.
|A U.S. Army soldiers carry away
ammunition that Army personnel said was found in a wrecked and
abandoned civilian ambulance south of Baghdad, Iraq Saturday,
April 5, 2003. Inside were rocket launchers and grenades, as
well as bed rolls and medical supplies, they said. (AP
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