ABU DHABI Ñ The combat ability of forces loyal to President Saddam
Hussein has been further reduced as the United States announced the start of
the battle for Baghdad.
On Monday, U.S. forces captured the Iraqi government center in Baghdad
and established roadblocks along the city's major arteries. Members of the
5th Marine Regiment and units from the army's 3rd Infantry Division also
seized two palaces of Saddam and surrounded the Iraqi Information Ministry, Middle East Newsline reported.
"We have not seen any examples of organized combat action," Brig. Gen.
Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief of U.S. Central Command, said on
Sunday. "There are small packets that usually conduct counter attacks. They
are generally company-sized Ñ somewhere between 20 and 40 vehicles with
associated paramilitaries, sometimes some technical, sometimes some infantry
in or not in uniform."
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Brooks said portions of the Republican Guard continue to engage in
battle with coalition forces. He identified them as parts of the Adnan, Al
Nida and Hammurabi divisions. The Hammurabi is deployed in northern Iraq.
"We believe that there are still some low levels of command and control
in some of the military formations," Brooks said.
The U.S. forces consisted of infantry and armored units, backed by A-10
fixed-wing aircraft and Predator unmanned air vehicles, that attacked regime
targets in Baghdad from several directions. U.S. military commanders
reported moderate Iraqi resistance as the Defense Department in Washington
announced the start of the battle for Baghdad.
U.S. officials said the size of Iraqi military formations has been no
greater than that of a company, or about 120 soldiers. They said the forces
appear to include combatants from a range of Iraqi military and irregular
U.S. sources told the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai Al Aam that U.S. ground
forces have entered Iraq from bases in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The
newspaper on Monday quoting senior U.S. officials as saying marines were
sent from Jordan for search-and-destroy operations in western Iraq. Amman
and Riyad have denied providing any military aid to the war in Iraq.
At the same time, British forces have found the body of Saddam's senior
aide, Ali Hassan Majid, in the southern city of Basra. Majid was responsible
for the defense of southern Iraq and directed chemical weapons strikes
against Kurds in the 1980s.