Skip to comments.Iraqis Cheer Arriving U.S. Troops Baghdad [Complete Report]
Posted on 04/09/2003 3:38:02 AM PDT by JohnHuang2
Iraqis Cheer Arriving U.S. Troops Baghdad
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER and HAMZA HENDAWI .c The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Joyous Iraqis cheered arriving U.S. troops and went on looting rampages in Baghdad on Wednesday as vestiges of President Saddam Hussein's authority collapsed.
As U.S. troops moved through one neighborhood after another, crowds of Baghdad residents bitterly denounced Saddam and seized the chance to plunder military installations and government buildings, making off with computers, bookshelves, tables, even Iraqi jeeps.
Among the buildings plundered were Iraq's Olympic headquarters, the state-owned Oil Marketing Co. and traffic police headquarters.
Some looters arrived with wheelbarrows and pushcarts. Others loaded their booty into car trunks.
There were no immediate reports of any attempts by the Iraqi government to restore order.
The outbreak came after one of the quietest nights in Baghdad since the war began raised hopes that the worst of the fighting was over.
On Palestine Street, where the Baath party as recently as a few weeks back held rallies and shows of force, gangs of youths and even middle-aged men looted the warehouses of the Trade Ministry, coming out with air conditioners, ceiling fans, refrigerators and TV sets.
Around the city, Iraqis ventured out into the streets, greeting U.S. troops with smiles, waves or a thumbs-up. Hundreds of Iraqis cheered U.S. troops in Saddam City, a poor neighborhood in northeast Baghdad.
``Thank you, thank you, Mr. Bush!'' one shouted.
On a Baghdad street, a white-haired man held up a poster of Saddam and beat it with his shoe. A younger man spat on the portrait, and several others launched kicks at the face of the Iraqi president.
``Come see, this is freedom. This is the criminal, this is the infidel,'' he said. ``This is the destiny of every traitor. He killed millions of us.''
``We are with the U.S.!'' said one man, carrying a rifle with one hand.
Boys as young as 15 or 16 walked menacingly, clenching Kalashnikovs. Gunshots sent motorists and pedestrians rushed in all directions.
Overnight, only a few explosions shattered the quiet of a city mostly shrouded in darkness because of a power outage now almost a week old. Explosions, tank shelling and gunfire rang out after daybreak in what was described as only sporadic resistance to U.S. forces trying to expand areas of the capital under their control.
The Army was pushing across the city from the west and the Marines from the east, and they hoped to link up Wednesday. U.S. forces were securing routes into the capital, repelling ambushes and trying to hunt down roving bands of fighters made up of three or four people.
The majority of regular Iraqi army soldiers and Republican Guard troops are believed to have deserted and gone home. Uniforms, boots and weapons litter the streets and fill fighting positions throughout the city.
The Arab-language satellite TV station Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. reported from Baghdad that there was no sign of any Iraqi government or military presence in the city.
LBC's correspondent Sultan Suleiman said neither Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf nor any ministry ``minders'' had shown up at the Palestine Hotel where hundreds of journalists are staying. The Iraqi government assigns ``minders'' to accompany journalists.
Suleiman said he toured Baghdad on Wednesday without being escorted by any Iraqi information ministry official.
The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division on the western side of Baghdad reported only sporadic fighting overnight, with small groups of Iraqi fighters firing assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and some mortars at U.S. troops. There were no reports of U.S. injuries.
Maj. Gen. Buford Blount II, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, visited a brigade command post set up at the New Presidential Palace, on the Tigris River in central Baghdad.
Col. David Perkins, the 2nd Brigade commander, told Blount that his forces can go anywhere in the city, whenever they want and meet only sporadic sniping.
``Last night was dramatically quieter than the night before and this morning is dramatically quieter than yesterday,'' Perkins said. He said most of the forces still fighting appear to be Special Republican Guard, Fedayeen militia, Baath Party loyalists and volunteers from neighboring countries.
The two commanders then discussed what buildings could be used to house military units and a new government to replace Saddam.
``That's the next mental jump, is for the Iraqis to realize that even if he is still alive, he's not in charge anymore,'' Perkins said.
Blount said he was pleased with the operation so far, but would not estimate how much longer it would take for U.S. forces to finish rooting out Saddam loyalists.
``We still have potential for a lot of fighting,'' Blount said. ``We need to make sure the people of Baghdad are secure and we're trying to limit the collateral damage and we hope the people will help us do that by keeping the terrorist element under control.''
Iraqi prisoners, most of them in civilian clothes, are describing to U.S. troops how they were recruited, loaded onto buses and then dumped on the streets to fight with little training or direction. Several Syrian fighters have been captured, some with documents declaring them suicide fighters.
A Syrian prisoner claimed that 5,000 Syrians had been taken by bus to Baghdad to help defend it.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, U.S. Central Command spokesman, said Tuesday he fully expected looting in Baghdad, as well as elsewhere where there is ``a vacuum in terms of control.''
``I think as time goes on, more law and order will be established. Ideally that goes by way of the Iraqi populations taking care of themselves,'' he said.
Early Wednesday, shortly after midnight, a sudden flash of light illuminated the sky over Baghdad, accompanied by a loud clap heard in the background. The disturbance, however, was not a continuation of the nearly three straight weeks of Baghdad under attack: It was a thunderstorm.
Thick black smoke rose from several areas, but more and more of the fires started by the Iraqis to cloak targets in the city have fizzled out in the past few days, possibly because the fuel has run out and the Iraqis are not able to reach them to replenish the fuel.
Marines holding American flags had their pictures taken with the ever-present portraits of Saddam.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Associated Press writers Chris Tomlinson with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and Alexandra Zavis with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing also contributed to this report.
The places that were supposed to be the easiest, the southern cities, were more difficult than the places that were supposed to be the hardest, baggeddead.
``Come see, this is freedom. This is the criminal, this is the infidel,'' he said. ``This is the destiny of every traitor ..."
Amen. Sic semper tyrannus!
Amen! (Unless you're a liberal!)
Col. David,("Perfect Dave") Perkins...what a great guy. One of the neat things about the embedding program is being able to get to know wonderful young men like Col. Perkins. Good job!!