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First US Military Aircraft Lands at US-Controlled Baghdad Airport - 2003-04-06


Reporters say the first U.S. military aircraft has landed at Baghdad Airport since the field was captured Friday by coalition forces. Earlier in the day, U.S. troops surrounded the embattled Iraqi capital, and scores of British troops moved into Iraq's second largest city, Basra, to root out pockets of resistance.

A coalition officer says the aircraft was a C-130 military transport that landed about an hour after dark. He gave no details of what it carried.

Earlier, U.S. troops made their second incursion into the Iraqi capital. Coalition forces are reported to control the highways in and out of the city.

On the ABC television program This Week, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace said that although the cordon around the city is not impenetrable, it is very tight.

"It is certainly true that we have huge amounts of combat power around the city right now, and we have over 1,000 planes in the air every day," he said.

U.S. Central Command said American casualties in a confrontation in Baghdad Saturday were light. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks estimated Iraqi deaths at about 2,000.

"We know it was a considerable amount of destruction on all of the force that was encountered," he said. "And so I have tried to characterize it in those types of terms: 'a considerable amount of destruction.' In virtually every engagement we have, it is very one-sided."

VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu, with U.S. forces at the Baghdad Airport, said she thinks the incursion into Baghdad Saturday "was more of a symbolic gesture, just to let the Iraqis know that they could move in at any time. And I think, it was a lot to do with Iraqi claims that the U.S. and coalition were nowhere near the capital."

In northern Iraq, General Pace acknowledged U.S. responsibility for a "friendly fire" incident on CNN's Late Edition, but said details are under investigation.

"We do know that there was a convoy up north. We do know that we had some U.S. special forces with that convoy. We do know that one of our planes dropped bombs on that convoy. And that is all we know right now," he said.

Kurdish officials say at least 17 Kurds were killed and dozens more wounded in the bombing.

In an unrelated incident, Russia says a convoy of its diplomats and journalists was fired on as it left Baghdad, bound for Syria. Central Command says it was aware of the convoy's presence and that the area where the Russians were fired upon is believed to be controlled by Iraqi forces.

In the south, British tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled into Basra to root out paramilitary forces. British spokesmen say local civilians have been assisting coalition troops in the city.

Meanwhile, Iraqi state television showed brief footage of a smiling man in a military uniform that it said was President Saddam Hussein, who was reportedly holding a meeting with his top aides.

In Washington, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Fox News Sunday he is not concerned that coalition forces have not yet found weapons of mass destruction.

"The key to finding these things is to get the people who know about it in circumstances where they are no longer fearful, intimidated, and let them tell us," he said. "And we are not at that point."

Mr. Wolfowitz added that the top priorities for coalition troops on the ground are winning the war, getting control of the country, and toppling, what he called, Iraq's evil regime.

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