U.S. Troops Cheered In Baghdad

Jubilant crowds swarm Baghdad's streets April 9, 2003. U.S. Marine tanks, rolling into the city's commercial center, were greeted by people cheering and waving white flags.
CBS
U.S. forces continued to gain control of more and more of the Iraqi capital Wednesday, engaging in battles in some areas — especially against Iraq's poorly-armed Fedayeen fighters — and meeting and returning sporadic gunfire in others.

But in some parts of Baghdad, Iraqis celebrated, cheering President Bush and U.S. troops as they drove through. Looting is the order of the day in many sections of the city.

There are signs that the Iraqi government's efforts to sustain its public relations campaign have 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.

Also, there was no sign of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, whose daily briefings have constituted the main public face of the regime during the war.

In other developments:

  • Air strikes continued on key targets, with coalition forces declaring air supremacy, while working to block any enemy forces that might try to either enter or leave the Iraqi capital.
  • Iraqi rescue workers say they've found two bodies in the rubble of the 60-foot crater left by the bombs the U.S. dropped Monday on a Baghdad building where it had information that Saddam Hussein, his sons, and other Iraqi leaders might be. U.S. troops do not control that neighborhood and have not been able to search the site themselves. Iraq says there could be as many as 14 bodies in the crater.
  • The British have intelligence that Saddam survived the bombing, escaping the area only a few minutes before the bombs hit. "He was probably not in the building when it was bombed," a well-placed source told the London Guardian. The source added it was believed that Saddam had been in the building earlier.
  • The Pentagon says since the start of the war, 96 U.S. soldiers have died, 10 are missing in action and seven are held as POWs. Among the British, 30 soldiers have died. U.S. officials say there are 6,500 Iraqi POWs. Iraq has not released any casualty figures.
  • In Paris, the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres called for Iraq's help in locating two relief workers who disappeared in Baghdad a week ago. The group said the workers were "apparently being held by official Iraqi services."
  • Iran's government reacted angrily after a teenager was killed Tuesday by a stray rocket apparently fired by coalition forces that hit southwestern Iran. It was the third such case since the start of the war.
  • A new cassette tape purported to be from Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to rise up against Arab governments that support the attack on Iraq, and urged suicide attacks.

    On one Baghdad street, a white-haired man used his shoe to beat a canvas depicting a smiling Saddam. 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. Oh people, this is freedom."

    Another man walked out of a nearby compound holding a black and gold vase almost the same size as himself, and loaded it into a car. Other pictures showed people coming out of various buildings with electronic equipment and tables.

    Looters ran with flowers, boxes and clocks from what appeared to be a government office. One person was walking away with a PC screen.

    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.

    Col. David Perkins, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, says 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.

    Baghdad continues to be a war zone, however, and civilians are still getting killed and injured in incidents when they get caught in the crossfire, are mistaken for enemy soldiers, or are too close to strategic targets.

    As the block-by-block warfare moved forward, U.S. Marines Tuesday discovered an underground prison said by locals to be a torture center.

    The Marines then took over Rasheed Airport — a military facility in Baghdad — where they found both enough ammunition to arm 3,000 soldiers and grisly evidence that American POWs may have been held prisoner there.

    CBS News Correspondent David Martin says the Marines found chemical protection suits and uniforms — some caked with blood — that apparently belong to U.S. soldiers.

    The discovery came exactly one week after the raid that rescued Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and recovered 11 bodies, 8 of them soldiers who fought with Lynch.

    There are 7 U.S. soldiers listed as POWS in Iraq, and 10 others listed as missing, including two pilots whose fighter jet went down on Sunday. The military has not said whether the aircraft was shot down.

    CBS News military analysts say coalition forces are likely to keep the focus on Baghdad, tightening the grip there, before moving north to battles in Tikrit, Kurkuk, and finally Mosul.

    Tikrit — 100 miles north of Baghdad — is the birthplace of Saddam, and continues to be a stronghold of elements of his regime.

    The U.S. Tuesday began airlifting tanks to northern Iraq, where until now American troops have not had the kind of armored force that would be needed to make a move on Saddam's hometown.

    Also in northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters allied with coalition forces formed a closer ring around Kirkuk, following up on coalition air strikes on Iraqi troops there.