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Iraqi Army Corps Surrenders

Iraqi Army Corps Surrenders

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(AP) An entire army corps surrendered Friday in northern Iraq's largest city, leaving Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit as the last major holdout of his regime. The U.S. military issued a most-wanted list of 55 regime leaders who must be captured or killed.

In a step toward a formal victory proclamation, the top U.S. commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, told his troops, "The Saddam regime has ended."

Mosul, the main city in the north and third-biggest in Iraq, fell without bloodshed. American special forces and their Kurdish allies arrived in convoy of trucks and SUVs after accepting the surrender of the Iraqi army's 5th Corps commander.

Looting and celebrations spread quickly. Some people grabbed wads of bills from the Central Bank; others shot out car windows and stole ambulances from Mosul's general hospital.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of U.S. Central Command said the surrendering 5th Corps soldiers would be allowed to return home.

Brooks, at a news briefing, also discussed the list that has been compiled of 55 key regime leaders. Some may already have been killed, Brooks said; a deck of cards with names and photos are being distributed to coalition soldiers to help them identify those still at large.

Saddam's fate remains unknown, and Brooks said the coalition was focusing its efforts on the entire regime -- not just its top leader.

"There will also be attacks against key decision makers to kill or capture them," Brooks said. "There will be more in the coming days."

In Baghdad, where regime control collapsed Wednesday, U.S. troops were trying to curb looting that continued unabated for a third straight day. In parts of the capital, Marines were starting to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Some Baghdad residents took the law into their own hands, setting up roadblocks to confiscate stolen goods and beat up looters.

Before dawn Friday, U.S. warplanes fired six satellite-guided bombs at an intelligence building in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, believing that Saddam's half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was inside. U.S. commanders said they were still assessing damage and casualties from the strike.

Al-Takriti, a former head of the secret police, was a close adviser to Saddam and allegedly helped hide millions of dollars abroad while serving as ambassador to Switzerland.

The fall of Mosul, a city of more than 600,000, came a day after U.S. and Kurdish forces took Kirkuk, the other major city in the north. Both cities have economic links to nearby oil fields that have been secured virtually intact.

Capt. Frank Thorp, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, welcomed the surrender of the 5th Corps. "They have made the very wise choice of living for the future of Iraq instead of dying for this Iraqi regime," he said.

South of Kirkuk, thousands of young Iraqi soldiers walked toward Baghdad, making their way home after abandoning their positions.

The unarmed men, some of them barefoot, wore civilian clothes and carried little or nothing; some said it might take seven days to reach their home towns in the south.

One man told CNN that his military superiors, before vanishing several days ago, had confiscated the soldiers' documents in an attempt to keep them from deserting.

The rapid U.S.-Kurdish advance in the north brought the front to within 60 miles of Tikrit, where some of Saddam's remaining backers are believed to be taking refuge. Coalition aircraft have been striking Republican Guard positions in Tikrit, and roadblocks have been erected to prevent Iraqi leaders from reaching the city to wage a last stand.

U.S. special operations forces also have set up roadblocks along routes to Syria, searching for fleeing members of Saddam's regime and for fighters or equipment coming in from Syria, according to U.S. military officials.

Even in areas of Iraq controlled by the U.S.-led coalition, dangers remained. In Baghdad, four Marines and a medical corpsman were wounded late Thursday when a man strapped with explosives approached a checkpoint and blew himself up.

On Friday, at another checkpoint, a Marine opened fire on a car that did not stop. AP Broadcast News reporter Ross Simpson said three adults were killed, including the parents of a 5-year-old girl who was hit by several bullets but survived.

U.S. officers said their primary concerns now were to ward off further suicide attacks and work to restore security, water and power to Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the V Corps commander, said some holdout fighters remain at large in the capital. He referred to them as "knuckleheads... operating and fighting on the last orders they were given."

Britain's international development minister, Clare Short, suggested that U.S. forces weren't doing enough to restore order in Baghdad. "There must be a much bigger effort to stop all this looting and violence," she told BBC radio.

However, a spokesman for British forces in Iraq, Group Capt. Al Lockwood, said trying to crack down on looters too quickly could prove unwise.

"The last thing that we want is to be seen to be oppressing them when they're just having their first taste of freedom," he said.

Thorp said Zalmy Khalilizad, the U.S. special envoy to Iraq, is scheduled to moderate a meeting next week to discuss Iraq's future, to be attended by local leaders and Iraqi exiles. Thorp said the meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

A British official, Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, suggested in a BBC television interview that an interim government could be in place in 90 days, but added, "don't hold me to that."

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

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