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Many Parts of Baghdad Still Not Secure

Many Parts of Baghdad Still Not Secure

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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- American troops still have not secured many parts of Baghdad, which they believe contain pockets of Iraq's Republican Guard and paramilitary forces, a U.S. general said Thursday.

"Baghdad's still an ugly place," said Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart, director of operations at the U.S. Central Command.

"That's really the objective of our operations in Baghdad right now -- is to go to those locations and return some stability," Renuart said.

"We are succeeding each day to secure more and more of the city," he added.

There have been "pockets of intense resistance" in the center of Baghdad, particularly near the Imam Al-Adham mosque on Thursday, said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks.

"Our troops were fired on, took heavy fire from the vicinity of this mosque and another location and were engaged in a fairly heavy firefight for a number of hours," Renuart added.

U.S. officials have said they were tipped off that a meeting of senior Baath party leaders was under way in the area. Renuart said the enemy fighters were either killed or captured, and a number were dressed in black clothing that has been seen on paramilitary forces.

Renuart said U.S. forces have covered "about half or 60 percent" of Iraq, mostly in the south. "We still have a long ways to go," he said.

The northern city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's birthplace, "certainly is an area we're focused on as we continue our military operations toward the north," Renuart said.

He said the coalition didn't have a significant presence in the Tikrit area yet, but suggested it hasn't been necessary. "In many of those cases it doesn't take many people to create a desired effect," he said.

Renuart said U.S. special forces in northern Iraq have established a relationship with Kurdish fighters in the area of Kirkuk, adding that "operations that may occur will be done in close coordination with and under the control of our U.S. forces."

Asked about a U.S. Marine briefly displaying the Stars and Stripes on a statue of Saddam Hussein before it was toppled Wednesday in central Baghdad, Renuart said there have been "a couple cases instances where in sort of enthusiasm and jubilation we've seen some of our forces bring out the American flag and then think better of it."

"I don't think there's been direction for U.S. forces not to display a U.S. flag," he said.

Troops have been told that "we will have our flag over our forces where we find our forces, and where the Iraqi people begin to reclaim their country, then the Iraqi flag will be flown," Renuart said. "And I think, for example, yesterday you saw both coming from the same young man."

Asked the whereabouts of Saddam, his sons and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Renuart said: "I don't know that they're alive and I don't know that they're dead."

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

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