BAGHDAD, Iraq April 5 —
Iraqi fighters, tanks and artillery blocked the main roads into
Baghdad and black-clad members of President Saddam Hussein's
Fedayeen militia prowled the streets and manned heavy machine gun
Artillery shelling rocked central Baghdad early Sunday shortly
before 1 a.m. Reporters with experience in other war zones said it
sounded like outgoing artillery from a few kilometers (more than a
mile) away. At least one, they said, sounded like incoming.
The streets were teeming with armed men Saturday night who have
taken positions on major intersections and on main roads leading to
the southern, southeastern and western exits of Baghdad.
Many civilians were on the streets too, carrying Kalashnikov
assault rifles. Parts of the city were deserted amid reports that
U.S. forces had penetrated the capital earlier Saturday and that
coalition troops had Baghdad surrounded.
Power supply seems to have been restored in more parts of the
city Saturday night.
Shortly after midnight, two deafening explosions in quick
succession shook buildings in city.
Earlier, on the road to the airport, Iraqi army troops danced
atop what they said were U.S. armored personnel carriers destroyed
in battle Friday and Saturday. The Iraqis flashed the
Clouds of black smoke darkened the skies from trenches of oil set
alight as a defense, but a steady stream of cars and buses passed
through the plaza in front of Baghdad's large, ornate Mosque of the
Several rockets were launched from a truck in the central Baghdad
district of al-Salhiya making a roaring noise as they headed south.
The rumblings of explosions could be heard throughout the city,
growing ever louder as they shook buildings.
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf held his usual
midday news conference, telling reporters that U.S. troops were not
in the capital and claiming that Saddam's forces had retaken the
"Today, the tide has turned," al-Sahhaf said. "We are destroying
Saddam urged his men Saturday to charge at the coalition forces
"and destroy them." His statement was read by al-Sahhaf.
Saddam said the coalition forces, by concentrating on Baghdad,
have "weakened their capabilities on other fronts lines."
Police cars moved in groups in two or three with sirens squealing
and occupants flashing "V for victory" signs, carrying portraits of
Saddam and waving Iraqi flags.
Members of the Fedayeen, a militia led by Saddam's son Odai,
appeared in the city center for the first time since the war began.
They were easily identified in distinctive black uniforms.
Speaking to the Al-Arabiya Arab satellite channel, a man who
claimed to be a member of the Fedayeen vowed to keep up the
"They are cowards. They cannot face us on the ground. They
control the sky, but we are able to confront whoever goes on the
ground," said the man, who covered his face with a red-checkered
Kaffiyah to conceal his identity.
In Qatar, U.S. military officers said U.S. armored vehicles and
troops had entered the "heart of Baghdad," but there was no sign of
them around the Tigris River, which flows through the heart of the
city of 5 million.
U.S. officers did not say if American troops remained in the city
or how many had entered.
Knots of soldiers clad in Republican Guard uniforms, distinctive
by their red triangular insignia, patrolled the southern outskirts
of Baghdad around the neighborhood of Baladiya.
Bombing and artillery fire sounded throughout that area, anti
aircraft guns and mortars lined the southern entrance to the city,
but they were mostly off the road away from the main road the most
likely entry point of American forces.
Throughout the morning, armed men in pickup cars dashed across
Baghdad at high speed.
Long lines at gasoline stations underscored the sense of crisis.
Some shops were still open. In the fabled Shorja market, also in the
heart of Baghdad, hawkers selling batteries and flashlights were
doing brisk business. Curiously, a small store that sells birds was
Some signs of panic were beginning to appear, however.
Armed men ran toward an area where a rumor said a coalition pilot
had parachuted into the city center. The gunmen's cars screeched to
a halt. Kalashnikovs at the ready, they sprinted to an area among
high-rise apartment blocs in central Baghdad. There was no
indication that the report was true.
At the same time, thousands of frightened residents fled in
bumper-to-bumper traffic and scorching 106 degree (41 Celsius
degree) heat. They packed buses, trucks, pickup cars, taxis, private
cars even horse-drawn carts with blankets, foodstuffs, furniture,
heaters, television sets, pillows, stoves, cooking pots, mattresses
|Iraqis check the wreckage of an
armoured personel carrier that was destroyed during a gun
battle in Baghdad Saturday, April 5, 2003. Black-clad members
of President Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen militia appeared
Saturday for the first time in the streets of central Baghdad,
where the arrival of U.S.-led forces created a storm of rumors
and confusion. (AP
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