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April 11, 2003

(AP Photo)
Tikrit Stands As Last Major Iraq Holdout
Mosul, North's Biggest City, Falls; U.S. Commander Tells Troops 'Saddam Regime Has Ended'

The Associated Press

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April 11

An entire Iraqi army corps disappeared Friday in northern Iraq's largest city, leaving Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit as the last major holdout of his regime.

In a step toward a formal victory proclamation, the top U.S. commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, told his troops, "The Saddam regime has ended."

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer added: "The regime is gone."

U.S. troops in Baghdad tried to curb looting that continued unabated for a third straight day. In parts of the capital, Marines were starting to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Mosul, the third-biggest city in Iraq, fell without bloodshed. American special forces and their Kurdish allies arrived in convoy of trucks and SUVs but discovered there were no Iraqi troops left to surrender.

"We offered capitulation, but ... the Iraqi army evaporated, so there has been no formal capitulation or cease-fire," Lt. Col. Robert Waltemeyer told a news conference at an airbase in Mosul. "They may have just melted into the population."

Earlier, Central Command spokesman Capt. Frank Thorp said in Doha, Qatar, that the 5th Corps of the Iraqi army in and around Mosul had agreed to lay down their arms. That was later contradicted by Waltemeyer, the commander of a U.S. special forces unit in northern Iraq.

Looting and celebrations in Mosul spread quickly. Some people grabbed wads of bills from the Central Bank; others shot out car windows and stole ambulances from a general hospital.

Also on Friday, the U.S. military issued a most-wanted list of regime leaders.

At a Central Command news briefing, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks displayed a deck of cards depicting the 55 most-wanted regime leaders. The cards have been distributed to coalition troops to help them identify those still at large, although some may already be dead, he said.

Saddam's fate remains unknown, and Brooks said the coalition was focusing its efforts on the entire regime not just its top leader.

The looters' latest targets in Baghdad included a nursing college and an engineering college. The ministries of Education, Industry, Trade and Planning also were looted and set afire. In some cases, entire families parents and children searched together for plunder.

"Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting," pleaded one Baghdad woman, Jabryah Aziz, 41. "We can't live like this much longer, with Muslims looting other Muslims." But Brooks said American troops have no plans to serve as police.

Some Baghdad residents took the law into their own hands, setting up roadblocks to confiscate stolen goods and beat up looters.

Before dawn Friday, U.S. warplanes fired six satellite-guided bombs at an intelligence building in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, believing that Saddam's half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was inside. U.S. commanders said they were still assessing damage and casualties from the strike.

Al-Takriti, a former head of the secret police, was a close adviser to Saddam and allegedly helped hide millions of dollars abroad while serving as ambassador to Switzerland.

The fall of Mosul, a city of more than 600,000, came a day after U.S. and Kurdish forces took Kirkuk, the other major city in the north. Both cities have economic links to nearby oil fields that have been secured virtually intact.

South of Kirkuk, thousands of young Iraqi soldiers walked toward Baghdad, making their way home after abandoning their positions. The unarmed men, some barefoot, wore civilian clothes and carried little or nothing; some said it might take seven days to reach their homes in the south.

One man told CNN that his military superiors, before vanishing several days ago, had confiscated the soldiers' documents to try to keep them from deserting.

The rapid U.S.-Kurdish advance in the north brought the front to within 60 miles of Tikrit, where some of Saddam's remaining backers are believed to be taking refuge. Coalition aircraft have been striking Republican Guard positions in Tikrit, and roadblocks have been erected to prevent Iraqi leaders from reaching the city to wage a last stand.

U.S. special operations forces also have set up roadblocks along routes to Syria, searching for fleeing members of Saddam's regime and for fighters or equipment coming in from Syria, according to U.S. military officials.

Even in areas of Iraq controlled by the U.S.-led coalition, dangers remained. In Baghdad, four Marines and a medical corpsman were wounded late Thursday when a vehicle blew up as it approached a checkpoint.

On Friday, at another checkpoint, a Marine opened fire on a car that did not stop. AP Broadcast News reporter Ross Simpson said three adults were killed, including the parents of a 5-year-old girl who was hit by several bullets but survived.

U.S. officers said their primary concerns now were to ward off further suicide attacks and work to restore security, water and power to Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the V Corps commander, said some holdout fighters remain at large in the capital. He referred to them as "knuckleheads... operating and fighting on the last orders they were given."

Britain's international development minister, Clare Short, suggested that U.S. forces weren't doing enough to restore order in Baghdad. "There must be a much bigger effort to stop all this looting and violence," she told BBC radio.

However, a spokesman for British forces in Iraq, Group Capt. Al Lockwood, said trying to crack down on looters too quickly could prove unwise.

"The last thing that we want is to be seen to be oppressing them when they're just having their first taste of freedom," he said.

Thorp said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Iraq, is scheduled to moderate a meeting next week to discuss Iraq's future, to be attended by local leaders and Iraqi exiles. Thorp said the meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

A British official, Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, suggested in a BBC television interview that an interim government could be in place in 90 days, but added, "don't hold me to that."

photo credit and caption:
Kurdish soldiers are welcomed by Arab tribe militias as they enter Mosul, Iraq, Friday April 11, 2003. The northern city of Mosul fell into U.S. and Kurdish hands Friday after an entire corps of the Iraqi army surrendered. The city quickly descended into anarchy, with looting, arson and shootings, and U.S. special forces were sent in to restore order. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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