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Battlefield Overview

Battlefield Overview

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(AP) Marine and Army units swept through Baghdad on Wednesday -- seizing or destroying buildings almost at will -- but pockets of fierce resistance remained as looting took hold in some parts of the city.

Meanwhile, coalition forces were beginning to turn their attention north toward Tikrit, President Saddam Hussein's home turf.

Here's a summary of reports about units in those positions, followed by other battlefield developments. The reports are culled from official assessments and from journalists of The Associated Press and member news organizations traveling with American units in Iraq.


--Though parts of Baghdad were jubilant, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines took heavy fire at Baghdad University, where rocket-propelled grenades exploded just as the Marines blew through a brick wall surrounding the campus.

Nestled on the east bank of a steep bend of the Tigris River, the school buildings sheltered an unknown number of anti-American forces. The air soon crackled with heavy machine gun fire and mortar blasts. Several buildings billowed heavy black smoke. The campus fell quiet by nighttime as the Marines dug in, according to a CNN correspondent on the scene.

--Elsewhere around the city, fires burned and the sound of gunfire continued as Marines established checkpoints in the capital. Government facilities were looted, including ministry buildings, the state-owned Oil Marketing Co., and traffic police headquarters.

More heavy fighting was reported in the northeast part of the capital between members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and holdout Iraqis, said Capt. Frank Thorp, U.S. Central Command spokesman.

--U.S. Army units of the 3rd Infantry Division also came under fire when trying to take a key intersection. Just as the Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks moved into the crossroads, a rocket-propelled grenade screeched overhead and a U.S. tank gunner returned fire into a nearby building.

One U.S. soldier was injured and three Iraqis killed in the ensuing exchange.

--The International Red Cross said a Canadian employee was killed when the Red Cross-marked vehicle he was traveling in was hit by gunfire. A total of 13 people were reportedly killed in the same incident, the ICRC said.


--Lt. Mark Kitchens, a Central Command spokesman, said special operations forces were "actively engaging" Iraqi forces in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, a Sunni stronghold in the mostly Shiite country. The city of 260,000 is about 90 miles north of Baghdad and is home to many of Saddam's most devoted followers.

The Central Command said coalition airstrikes were targeting the Republican Guard's Adnan division in Tikrit, "shaping the battlefield" before U.S. ground forces move in.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said Iraqi reinforcements were reaching Tikrit, apparently after retreating from positions to the north and south.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two main Iraqi Kurdish groups opposing Saddam, claimed Tuesday that the Iraqi president already was hiding in Tikrit.

U.S. forces also expect resistance from a mix of Republican Guards and militia fighters in the oil centers of Mosul and Kirkuk.


--In Nasiriyah, three Marines were wounded on patrol when they stepped on an anti-personnel mine or an unexploded grenade.

--In Basra, calm hung over the city after two days of crowds ravaging the streets, but it appeared the British might have a hard time turning the city over from coalition military to civilian hands.

According to British press reports, a senior British officer said Maj. Gen. Robin Brims, Britain's field commander in Iraq, has met with three senior sheikhs.

"We were meant to be offering our services to them," the British officer said. "They said we had won the war and they promised to do our bidding.

"After 30 years of being told what to do by a dictator, I suppose it was understandable but it was not quite the message we wanted to put across."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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