Battle for Baghdad rages amid air raids
US tanks rolled into Baghdad where 1000 Iraqis were claimed to have been killed in fighting as Fidayeens took positions on Saturday.Updated: Apr 06, 2003 02:31 IST
Tightening their hold on Baghdad, US tanks and armoured vehicles on Saturday rolled into the city clashing with Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard amidst claims and counterclaims by the two warring sides that the international airport on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital was under their respective control.
US jets renewed pounding of the Iraqi positions in and around the city on Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, a new message from Saddam Hussein was read on the Iraqi TV on Saturday in which he called upon Iraqi army and people to stand up to the occasion and drive away and kill the 'invaders'.
US said about 1000 Iraqi militia were killed in battles inside Baghdad while Iraq claimed that hundreds of US troops were killed at airport outside the city which, they said, was now in the control of Republican Guard.
US troops launched the raid in the early hours and at one point claimed to have reached the centre of the capital. US television station Fox News showed footage of armoured vehicles firing on trucks and cars on the road to the airport.
But claims by US spokesmen that their forces reached the centre of the city were dismissed by Iraq which said the US forces were repulsed when they tried to advance to the city from the south.
"We were able to chop off their rotten heads," Iraqi military said in a statement read on satellite television.
A US Cobra Attack helicopter crashed in central Iraq killing two pilots as reports came in of a fresh suicide attack on US troops at the airport outside Baghdad.
Seven civilians were reported killed at a roadblock being set up by US marines south-east of Baghdad.
ASSAULT ON BAGHDAD
American tanks which reportedly pushed into southern Baghdad for the first time linked up with troops at the international airport. A US commander claimed that about 1,000 Iraqi troops were killed in fierce fighting when the American troops moved into Baghdad.
American military officials were also quoted as saying that a number of their soldiers were injured in the fighting.
Up to 20 tanks came up from the south until they reached a loop in the Tigris - across the river from Baghdad University - where the road swings to the west.
Truckloads of Iraqi troops, some towing howitzers, and heavy Iraqi artillery were seen moving on the streets of Baghdad for the first time. Police cars, their sirens blaring, were broadcasting messages of defiance.
US Central Command spokesman Frank Thorp said there had been reports of "limited engagements" with the Republican Guard.
Two tank companies and an infantry company of the 3rd Infantry Division reportedly rolled through the headquarters unopposed and took over the entire base in the town of Suwayra about 50 kilometres south-east of Baghdad.
The tension was palpable in Baghdad. At midday, several rockets were launched southward from atop a truck in the central district of al-Salhiya.
Members of Saddam's Fidayeen, a militia led by Saddam Hussein's son Odai, appeared in the city centre for the first time since the war began. They were easily identified by their distinctive black uniforms.
Iraqi state television remained in the air in the capital broadcasting patriotic songs. State radio was also broadcasting, exhorting Iraqis to defend their nation.
OTHER BATTLES CONTINUE
US troops and aircraft also launched an attack on the city of Karbala, some 60 km south of Baghdad
American rangers and special forces were reported to have taken control of the road leading to Tikrit - the birthplace of President Saddam Hussein - to the immediate north of Baghdad
In Basra, British forces said they were moving further into the city and had destroyed a building where one of Iraq's most important military commanders, Ali Hassan al-Majid - also known as Chemical Ali - was thought to be staying.
The US Army is also reported to have captured the headquarters of the Republican Guard's Medina Division, but a military official in Doha said he was unable to confirm that.
First Published: Apr 05, 2003 13:22 IST