Baghdad falls, Iraqis celebrate

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

ABU DHABI The United States believes it has completed the capture of Baghdad.

Jubilant crowds swarmed into Baghdad streets Wednesday, cheering U.S. convoys and defacing images of Saddam Hussein.

"The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief for Central Command, said on Wednesday.

Brooks said Iraqis have been celebrating the demise of the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But he stressed that resistance by forces loyal to Saddam continue to be reported in downtown Baghdad.

"We're not finding hostile behavior from the population," he said. "We believe the population recognizes that the end is near."

U.S. officials said Saddam's forces are still believed to be active in the north. This includes Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, where some Iraqi leaders were headed.

"We certainly are focused on Tikrit," Brooks said. "I'm not going to predispose to say when will go in. There is still work to be done."

Civilians gestured to the Americans with V-for-victory signs. "We were nearly mobbed by people trying to shake our hands," said Maj. Andy Milburn of the 7th Marines. One Army contingent had to use razor-wire to hold back surging crowds of well-wishers.

Throughout the capital, U.S. forces steadily expanded their reach, securing a military airport, capturing a prison, setting fire to a Republican Guard barracks. Milburn said the house of Saddam's son Odai was on fire, apparently hit by a bomb.

The Iraqi government's efforts to sustain its public relations campaign collapsed. State television went off the air Tuesday, and on Wednesday, foreign journalists said their "minders" government agents who monitor their reporting did not turn up for work. There was no sign of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, whose daily briefings had constituted the main public face of the regime during the war.

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