Rumsfeld said the small band of coalition fighters saw an opportunity to move into the city early Friday local time.
“Within recent hours I am told that in Mosul there appears to be an opportunity for the regular Iraqi forces to turn in their weapons and no longer pose a threat, in which case Kurdish forces and U.S. forces in small numbers are in the process of moving into Mosul,” Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington.
The secretary of defense said that military officials on the ground were reporting no armed resistance as the soldiers entered the northern Iraqi city.
“To my knowledge, at last hearing, it is an orderly process and the forces that are entering are being welcomed by the people,” he said.
A Reuters correspondent near the city reported seeing American tanks moving towards Mosul.
Earlier in the day, Gen. Babakir Zebari, a Kurdish commander in the region, told the Associated Press that members of Saddam’s Baath party and Iraqi military commanders in the city had offered to surrender if the coalition ceased its air bombardment and offered the senior leaders amnesty.
Both military officials near Mosul and at the Pentagon indicated there would be no clemency offer, although U.S. authorities did say they were in contact with Iraqis in the city.
“Our special forces have the ability to talk to them, and they are there,” a U.S. Defense Department official told Reuters.
The dramatic developments in the city came on the same day that Kurdish and U.S. military troops seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.