April 7 —
U.S. forces barreled into the heart of Baghdad with a dramatic
show of force Monday and met pockets of fierce resistance. British
officials said troops found a body in southern Iraq that they
believed was the notorious Iraqi general known as "Chemical
Missiles screamed over the Iraqi capital just after dawn and
thunderous explosions shook buildings as the 2nd Brigade of the
Army's 3rd Infantry Division moved north into the city and seized a
presidential palace. In southern Baghdad, Iraqi rockets struck a
group of Army personnel carriers at the brigade's field
headquarters, according to a military report. At least six soldiers
were missing and a large number were wounded.
To the south, British troops gained control over much of Basra,
Iraq's second-largest city, and were pressing into the old city
where the last paramilitary fighters had retreated. Some Basra
residents cheered the British, while others went on a looting
rampage, streaming out of the Central Bank of Iraq and the
bomb-damaged Sheraton Hotel with armloads of chairs, tables, carpets
and other goods.
Troops in Baghdad stormed Saddam's New Presidential Palace and
set up a prisoner of war holding pen inside the elaborate compound
on the west bank of the Tigris, a winding river that divides the
city. The ruling Baath Party headquarters nearby was completely
destroyed. Up the river at the Old Palace, the sound of explosions
and heavy fire could be heard. In the center of the city, U.S.
forces used explosives to destroy two statues of Saddam.
The drive was meant to send a strong signal about the coalition's
ability to enter Baghdad, said Navy Capt. Frank Thorp at U.S.
Central Command. But it wasn't clear the troops were there to
"We're comfortable with a very deliberate strategy to move
through the city and come back out," Thorp said. "I wouldn't comment
on what we're going to do tomorrow or the next day. But what this
does is it continues to destroy elements of the Iraqi military."
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, standing on
a Baghdad rooftop, denied his city had been invaded. Sirens could be
heard as he spoke and clouds of dust blew past remnants of a
sandstorm and smoke from oil fires set by the Iraqis to obscure
"They are sick in their minds. They say they brought 65 tanks
into center of city. I say to you this talk is not true," al-Sahhaf
said. "There is no presence of American infidels in the city of
Baghdad, at all."
Armed militiamen and Iraqi army troops patrolled the street
outside the Information Ministry. Most Iraqis stayed indoors, but
some shops were open and public buses were running. Iraqi TV and
state radio stayed on the air, broadcasting patriotic songs,
religious sermons and archival footage of Saddam.
On the southern outskirts of Baghdad, two Marines were killed and
two others were injured when their vehicle was struck by an
artillery shell at a bridge over a canal. The 3rd Battalion, 4th
Marines fought for the highway bridge that leads into the city
Sunday, and were trying to cross it when they were hit Monday
morning, Lt. Col. B.P. McCoy said.
The Marines quickly worked to repair the bridge while others
crossed on foot to secure the other side of the canal, wary of booby
traps that may have been set by Saddam's Fedayeen militia.
Troops everywhere have been warned of possible suicide attacks,
including by bombers in ambulances. There were also reports from the
field that Iraqis in civilian vehicles, possibly carrying bombs, had
attempted to ram coalition tanks.
In the southern port city of Basra, British forces consider their
biggest threat to be militia fighters still roaming the city. But
with the suspected death of Iraqi Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid, Iraqi
fighters and Baath Party militants may be rudderless.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said he had not yet
confirmed that al-Majid had been killed, though the evidence was
strong. Al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam, gained the nickname "Chemical
Ali" for ordering a poison gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds
in 1988. His home was targeted in coalition airstrikes over the
His death should show the people of southern Iraq "that the
regime is finished," said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, spokesman for
British forces in the Gulf.
The convoy that pressed into Basra's old city Monday 50 to 75
vehicles and about 700 troops consisted of jeeps mounted with heavy
guns, which are lighter and better suited to urban combat.
Also to the south, U.S. forces took control of the center of the
holy city of Karbala, the Army Times newspaper reported Sunday.
Meanwhile, at Baghdad's airport, members of the 101st Airborne
Division fought Iraqis in military uniform in a prolonged overnight
battle, killing at least 100 fighters.
The attacks at the airport followed the coalition's first use of
its runways. A hulking U.S. C-130 transport plane landed there
Sunday, foreshadowing a major resupply effort by air for U.S.
troops, dependent until now on a tenuous line stretching 350 miles
|A U.S. tank guards one of Saddam
Hussein's palaces in Baghdad, Monday, April 7, 2003. Coalition
soldiers took over key buildings Monday, as gunfire and
explosions thundered in many parts of the battered Iraqi
capital. (AP Photo/John
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