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Heavy Fighting Continues in Central Baghdad - 2003-04-08

U.S. aircraft, artillery and tanks have mounted an intense bombardment of ministries and official buildings in central Baghdad. The attack comes a day after a American warplane tried to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with a huge precision bombing strike on a building in Baghdad where he was thought to be meeting with other members of the leadership.

Live television footage from Baghdad has shown American tanks fighting an intense battle with Iraqi forces in the heart of the city as U.S. warplanes and artillery pounded a district where many government ministries are located. Reports from the Iraqi capital say fighting is especially fierce around one of the presidential palaces that American forces occupied on Monday.

U.S. Marines have entered Baghdad from the east after fighting their way across a tributary of the Tigris River and engaging units of Saddam Hussein's elite Special Republican Guards. Meanwhile, units of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division are advancing further into the capital from the west.

The ground fighting in Baghdad came a day after the Iraqi leader and his two sons were targeted in an attack by a B-1 bomber that dropped four 2,000 pound bombs on a building in an upscale residential district of the city. U.S. officials say the attack was carried out after intelligence reports indicated that the president and other members of the leadership were meeting there. The building was completely destroyed, as were two others in the vicinity.

Iraqi state television failed Tuesday to broadcast its regular morning news program and then went off the air entirely.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington that Saddam Hussein's government no longer controls much of the country. "His forces continue to surrender and capitulate. His regime is running out of real soldiers, and, soon, all that will be left will be the war criminals," says Mr. Rumsfeld.

Meanwhile, British troops have taken control of the heart of Basra, in southern Iraq. Residents of the country's second biggest city have engaged in widespread looting, and they also torched government offices. The British say it will take a couple of days for them to totally secure Basra.

British military spokesman, Group Captain Al Lockwood, says he hopes the looting will end soon, once Basra residents vent their pent-up anger at Saddam Hussein's government. "It's the frustration after 25 years of persecution by the regime that citizens of Basra are taking their anger out on the houses, the properties of the Baath Party, and there has been some looting…this type of thing tends to die out quickly," says Mr. Lockwood. "We expect the citizens of Basra to exercise some self-control as time goes on."

Captain Lockwood says British forces in the city are only equipped for what he calls "war fighting," not for police action.