The fighting came only hours after the power went out in to the city of five million.
An ABC reporter embedded with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division reported that American forces had battled entrenched Iraqi units and had taken control of the airport’s civilian and military areas. The correspondent, Bob Schmidt, reported he was standing on the tarmac of the airport when he filed his report.
“U.S. forces encountered very little Iraqi resistance, said Schmidt, although some units of the 3rd Infantry Division did encounter scattered firing by Iraqi foot soldiers and men in pickups,” ABC reported on its Web site Thursday afternoon EST. “He reported seeing Iraqis waving and cheering as U.S. tanks rolled toward the airport which is just 10 miles from central Baghdad.”
A Reuters reporter some nine miles from the airport reported it may take some time for the complex to be totally in coalition hands.
“It’s going to take some time to secure the airport, although we haven’t encountered much opposition yet,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Quarles told Reuters’ Luke Baker.
Iraqi officials told Reuters reporters in Baghdad that their troops had captured five tanks and one attack helicopter during fighting near the airport. The Iraqis said they would air footage of the seized military hardware on state television later Thursday.
As the battle was playing out at the airport, 12 miles to the northwest, Baghdad’s city center was plunged into darkness Thursday night, local time.
Correspondents still in the Iraqi capital reported hearing a series of explosions some 15 minutes before the power went out to large sections of the city. Within minutes it appeared power was out to most of Baghdad.
The blackout marked the first widespread power loss in the capital since the war started more than two weeks ago. American officials had pointed to the fact the lights were still on as proof coalition forces were not targeting civilian infrastructure.
Only minutes after the power failed, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers said American aircraft had not struck the power supply.
“Central Command has not targeted the power grid in Baghdad,” Myers told reporters, adding that American officials were investigating the source of the outage.
Hours after the lights went out dozens of heavy explosions rocked the central and southern parts of the city. Broadcast and wire reports indicated blasts were heard at between 1:15 and 1:35 Friday morning local time (5:15 – 5:35 p.m. Thursday EST).