Some Iraqi troops con tinue to resist US invasion in central Baghdad
The United States forces continued to exchange fire with Iraqi troops in central Baghdad on Tuesday in an attempt to widen its control over the capital city.
American armored vehicles and tanks fired cannon and machine-guns from the western ends of the Gumhuriya and Sinak bridges over the Tigris river as Iraqi forces fired back from the eastern bank.
United States officers said the Marines were trying to link up with forces from the US 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad on the western side of the Tigris river.
Making a point of the US-led coalition's success in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Tuesday that its forces were moving "at will" within and around Baghdad.
"We continue to make progress in the war with the Iraqi regime,which has less control of the country every day," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters in Washington.
"Our troops are moving at will in Baghdad, including the presidential palaces," she said.
She said the Iraqi military "has lost much of its command and control capability. Most of the opposition is now sporadic attacksfrom small units."
"We continue to believe that some tough fighting may well lie ahead, but the forces will not stop until Saddam Hussein and his regime are gone," she said.
Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of joint operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US forces in and around Baghdad "are spending the night wherever they want to.
"We have, in fact, essentially isolated the capital," McChrystal said.
In response to the US victorious claims, Iraq's information minister said Iraqi forces would "tackle and destroy" the invaders."They are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told reporters at the Palestine Hotel.
"They (US forces) are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks," the minister said, when asked if Iraq would surrender after US tanks rolled into the center of the city. "Baghdad is bracing to pummel the invaders," he added.
The United States admitted that Saddam Hussein might still control the Special Republican guard and death squads despite an earlier US air strike specially targeting at him and his sons.
It seems Saddam Hussein "still controls elements of the Special Republican guard and death squads" as command orders were still being issued by Iraqi leadership, said McChrystal.
"The Republican Guard are receiving instructions, but in many cases not following them and (are) not capable any more so they'renot an effective fighting force," said McChrystal.
McChrystal acknowledged that he was not sure whether the Iraqi leader was killed in Tuesday's air strike.
A US B-1 bomber dropped four specially designed 2,000 pound bombs on a building in a Baghdad residential neighborhood suspected of containing Iraqi leaders, including Saddam and his two sons.
Members of the B-1 crew told reporters Tuesday that they were patrolling the Iraqi capital when they were told about a high priority leadership target.
The bomber arrived at the target just 12 minutes later. The first two bombs struck the building, then the other two, equipped with a 25-millisecond delay fuse, penetrated further into the target.
On the 21st day of the war, an American tank fired at the Palestine Hotel housing hundreds of journalists in downtown Baghdad, killing Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, and Jose Couso,cameraman for Spain's Tele 5 television. Three other Reuters journalists were wounded.
Less than a kilometer away, on the western side of the Tigris River, another journalist was killed when an Al-Jazeera televisionoffice was hit from the air in a US bombing run, the network said.An Abu Dhabi TV office nearby was also damaged but no one was injured.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group in New York, said it believed military strikes against known media locations violated the Geneva Conventions and demanded US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld launch an investigation.
Hospitals in Baghdad were overwhelmed with patients, and were running low on life-saving medicines as civilian casualties mounted, according to an aid agency.
At least 1,250 Iraqis have been killed and more than 5,100 wounded since the war broke out on March 20, according to Iraqi estimates.
United States special forces in the north of Iraq were preventing Iraqi troops moving south toward Tikrit or Baghdad, andairstrikes continued on Iraqi military forces in the north. Enditem
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