BAGHDAD, Iraq April 6 —
Saddam Hussein urged Iraqi troops separated from their combat
squads to join other fighters to fend off the Americans, according
to a statement read on TV that indicates disarray among the
country's elite fighters.
The appeal came as Baghdad shook from continued allied bombing.
At nightfall Sunday, long bursts of heavy machine-gun fire and
strong explosions rocked the capital in what appeared to be a battle
not far from the city center.
The shriek of surface-to-surface missiles, the pounding of
artillery and bursts of what sounded like heavy machine-gun grew in
frequency and intensity Sunday evening in the city's southern
Just before 9 p.m., loud explosions and gunfire were heard
downtown, not far from the Information Ministry and a hotel where
many journalists are staying.
Prayers broadcast from Baghdad's mosques filtered through the din
of battle. "God is great and to him we owe thanks," clerics intoned
every time the city came under attack.
Two hours later, Baghdad was quiet, with occasional light weapons
and missile fire. Explosions could be heard in the distance.
The statement attributed to Saddam, read on Iraqi television and
radio, also said that anyone who destroys an allied tank, armored
personnel carrier or artillery would be awarded 15 million dinars,
or about $8,000.
Iraqi satellite television showed brief footage of a smiling
Saddam in military uniform chairing a meeting it said was held
Sunday with his top aides.
In a separate announcement, a broadcaster for Iraqi state radio
read a decree by Saddam that two female suicide bombers be awarded
posthumously the medal of the Al-Rafdin or "The Two Rivers" the
nation's highest decoration, and that their families be given 50
million dinars or about $28,000 each.
The attack last week in western Iraq killed three U.S. soldiers
at a checkpoint 80 miles from the Syrian border.
Burnt-out Iraqi tanks littered one of the main roads leading to
Baghdad on Sunday, one day after American troops muscled through the
city. Regime leaders remained defiant and appealed for calm.
A haze hung over the capital. Some of the fires ignited by
authorities more than two weeks ago to conceal targets appeared to
have fizzled, reducing the gray smoke spiraling into the skies.
The streets crawled with black-clad Fedayeen militia, the armed
loyalists of the ruling Baath Party, and teenagers with guns.
Iraqi troops clambered up what they claimed was an allied tank
destroyed in a Sunday morning battle. They made V-for-victory signs
and chanted slogans in support of Saddam.
The U.S. Central Command said coalition soldiers killed up to
3,000 Iraqi troops in Saturday's incursion. Iraqi leaders denied
heavy casualties and took pains to show they were still in
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf warned Baghdad
residents against "rumors" and "lies."
"Open your eyes and keep your minds alert to be able to
differentiate between information and the inadequate ones," he said
in a press briefing Sunday. He urged residents to remain calm and
not to fire guns without being told.
The escalation of violence in the capital appeared be taking its
toll on residents.
At the al-Kindi hospital in a working-class Baghdad, scores of
people with shrapnel wounds have been coming in since Saturday
night. Among them were eight members of one family.
In one ward, several children wore bloodstained casts on their
legs and arms, and some had difficulty breathing. One girl had
bandages over half her face. Most children gazed aimlessly while
their parents tried to comfort them.
A Saudi man had both legs amputated below the knee. He said he
was hit in the southern district of al-Doura on Saturday night
during an allied air raid. "God willed it and what he wanted was
done," Roweijah Al-Oteibi said from his hospital bed.
Iraq's state-run newspapers continued to publish, dominated by
official statements, pictures of wounded civilians and news of
anti-war protests around the world.
Al-Sahhaf blamed the Americans for the suffering of Baghdad
residents. He claimed allied air strikes deliberately targeted power
stations and accused U.S. troops of targeting civilians.
"They are killing civilians. Whenever they see an Iraqi person,
they kill him, take him prisoner or kidnap him," he said.
Power was out for two days before being restored to some parts
Saturday. Most of Baghdad was still dark Sunday, and the streets
were deserted by nightfall.
|US Marines of the 3rd battalion,
4th regiment, return fire at Iraqi gunmen during a fighting to
secure a key bridge into Baghdad on the outskirts of the Iraqi
capital, Sunday, April 6, 2003. (AP Photo/Laurent
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