U.S. Surrounds and Attacks Baghdad, Iraqi Casualties in the Thousands
Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman General Peter Pace said, ”It is certainly true that we have huge amounts of combat power around the city right now, and that we have over a thousand planes in the air every day. So if it moves on the ground and it takes aggressive action, it’s going to get killed.”
Military officials said the operations in and around Baghdad are intended to have both and tactical and political effect.
“It’s important to do so to secure the area; it’s also important that we do that for psychological reasons,” said Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson. “Frankly we’ve had to prove to the civilians in the north and the south that we’re there to stay. Once they know we’re there to stay, they celebrate.”
Military officials estimate that around 2,000-3,000 Iraqi soldiers have been killed since U.S. forces began operations inside the city on Saturday.
U.S. troops now claim full control of Highway 1, which runs north out of Baghdad, and Highway 10, which runs west.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces are fortifying their base of operations, the newly renamed Baghdad International Airport located just southwest of the city. A C-130 cargo plane, the military’s largest, was able to land at the airport Sunday night after engineering crews repaired damaged runways.
Vehicles from the 3rd Infantry Division, loaded with soldiers and supplies, continued to rumble across the Euphrates River headed for the airport.
On the other side of the city Marine units reportedly defeated Iraqi forces during a battle for control of a bridge over the Tigris river and combat engineers began to prepare it for use by trucks and armored vehicles.
The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid reported that regular Iraqi soldiers, Baath party officials, Republican Guard, and Fedayeen troops were moving throughout the city, digging trenches and constructing dirt berms to establish defensive positions near major intersections in downtown areas.
Shadid reported that tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens were attempting to leave the city. He said electricity and phone service was out in most areas.
Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, continued to deny that coalition troops had entered the city and claimed again that Iraqi troops had re-taken the airport.
“We are surrounding them and pounding them,” Sahhaf said at a news conference. “The whole trend has changed and we are going to finalize this very soon.”
Sahaff said Saddam Hussein’s regime would not be defeated.
Reuters correspondents in Baghdad reported that a fierce fight could be heard from the center of the city.
“Heavy machineguns, multiple rocket launchers are being fired. The rockets are being fired one by one. Now we can hear artillery,” Reuters reporter Khaled Yacoub Oweis said from his downtown hotel. “It seems that the Iraqi side is firing across the city toward the southwest…every so often you can hear the thud of artillery. You get the feeling that the fighting’s closing in.”
Reporters inside Baghdad said Iraqis there are confused by the conflicting reports they get from government run media and independent news organizations.