Sunday, April 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

US tanks roll into Baghdad
* Suspected chemical weapons site being dug up
* Iraq says airport still with it

Near Baghdad, April 5
US armoured forces rolled into Baghdad today, smashing through Iraq’s Republican Guard to reach the ultimate destination - at least briefly - of their two-week surge across southern Iraq, US officials said.

Iraqi television played patriotic music and soldiers and militiamen loyal to President Saddam Hussein vowed to keep fighting.

In another development, US Marines were digging up a suspected chemical weapons hiding place at an Iraqi school today, describing it as one of the most likely concealment sites discovered in a so far fruitless hunt.

Based on information from a local Iraqi who described himself as a former special forces member, the Marines descended on the courtyard of the girls’ school in central Iraq and began hacking through a plate of concrete with pickaxes and shovels.

The informant told the Marines that a team of Iraqi officials broke through the wall of the school two months ago to truck in material and buried it under new concrete — about the size of two tennis courts — in the course of three nights.

Saddam, in a statement read on Iraqi TV by Iraq’s Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, urged his men today to charge at the coalition forces “and destroy them”.

Navy Capt Frank Thorp, a US Central Command spokesman, claimed US armoured combat formations had moved through “the heart of Baghdad”.

But witnesses said they saw no evidence of an incursion, and Captain Thorp refused to specify what he meant by the city’s “heart”.

The situation was further confused later today when a second Central Command spokesman described the incursion into Baghdad as a movement of tanks and other armour through the southwest quadrant of the Capital that ended at the international airport west of the city.

“It was, I think, a clear statement of the ability of the coalition forces to move into Baghdad at a time and place of their choosing,” said Maj-Gen Victor Renuart, a spokesman.

He refused to say if any coalition forces remained in the centre of the city as had been claimed by Captain Thorp.

Captain Thorp would not say how many American soldiers entered Baghdad, most of which remained under Iraqi control. Thousands of US troops had reached the outskirts yesterday, the 3rd Infantry Division arriving from the southwest and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from the southeast.

The Iraqi military, in a statement read on satellite television, said US forces were repulsed when they tried to advance on Baghdad from the south.

Explosions and machine-gun fire could be heard across Baghdad, and armed Iraqis in pickup trucks and police cars raced through the streets. Members of the fidayeen, a militia led by Saddam’s son Odai, appeared in downtown for the first time since the war began, identifiable by distinctive black uniforms.

At Baghdad’s airport, captured by US troops yesterday soldiers used explosives to clear abandoned buildings and examined an extensive underground complex below the airfield.

Although US officers said their hold on the airport was firm, al-Sahhaf contended that Iraqi forces had retaken the facility. AP

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