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April 8, 2003
 
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U.S. Tanks Advance as Bombs Pound Baghdad

Reuters


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April 8

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. aircraft and artillery pounded government buildings in Baghdad on Tuesday as U.S. tanks battled Iraqi forces and moved to expand their control of the city center beyond a base in a presidential palace.

"It's raining bombs," said Reuters correspondent Samia Nakhoul.

"They're targeting the same area over and over. The place is shaking and there's smoke rising," she said from a vantage point on the Tigris River less than two km (a mile) away.

On the 20th day of the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the air attack was concentrated on an area between the Jumhuriya Bridge and Iraq's Information ministry.

Half a dozen blasts shook the area where Iraqi television and radio are also located, as well as Shabad Television, which is owned by Saddam's son Uday, and Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi television.

Al-Jazeera said that its office was hit by an American missile and one of its cameramen, Tarek Ayoub, was killed.

Iraq domestic television went dark after the attack.

From the roof of the Palestine hotel, Reuters correspondent Hassan Hafidh said flames poured from buildings and thick black smoke hung over the western part of the city.

He said he could see U.S. tanks, which burst into the city center on Monday, moving toward the Information Ministry from the southwest.

Earlier, Reuters correspondent Nakhoul said she saw at least one A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft circle low overhead, dropping bombs and spewing out flares to protect against anti-aircraft missiles.

BOMBS, SHELLS FALL

Bombs and shells were falling close to the Jumhuriya Bridge, a key artery in the city center, possibly targeting positions of Iraqi troops in the area.

Two U.S. Abrams tanks advanced from the western side of the Tigris to the middle of the bridge, one of them loosing off a shell, before they both reversed and took up position on the western end, a main Baghdad artery.

"This is very symbolic. That's a key bridge," Nakhoul said.

A U.S. F-14 Tomcat fighter buzzed overhead.

At a presidential palace seized by American forces, U.S. troops exchanged machine-gun and artillery fire with Iraqi forces apparently trying to storm the compound.

This correspondent could see U.S. tanks advancing under heavy fire from Iraqi positions outside the palace compound. The tanks appeared to be moving toward other government buildings to the north in an apparent bid to expand their area of control in the city center.

Reuters correspondents estimated the U.S. forces had moved some three km (two miles) since dawn, taking them into the nerve center of Saddam's administration. U.S. planes screamed low over the city giving close air support.

Earlier, the U.S. forces fired what looked like about a dozen rockets in quick succession from within the large compound toward the northwest of the city. The Americans also appeared to be aiming machinegun fire into the Tigris.

On Monday, U.S. forces captured two presidential compounds, including the main Republican Palace, which has been the target of almost three weeks of U.S. air and missile raids.

The palace complex, stretching several kilometers (miles) along the western bank of the Tigris, houses the headquarters of the Republican Guards, the elite fighting force commanded by Saddam's youngest son Qusay.

U.S. military sources said troops spent the night in the city center, despite the threat of attacks, to send a signal of how far the Americans were determined to take control of the capital of five million people and overthrow Saddam.

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told reporters on Monday that Iraqi forces were slaughtering the enemy and denied that U.S. tanks had captured the palaces.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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