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Iraqi Regime is Losing its Grip on Power, says US General - 2003-04-09

A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command says the Iraqi regime is losing its grip on power, but more work remains to be done before all objectives of the coalition have been reached. The U.S. military is viewing the images of jubilant crowds dancing in the streets in Baghdad in celebration as a positive sign, but are not ready to say their work is done.

Speaking to reporters at the daily briefing at Central Command headquarters, Brigadier General Vince Brooks said that recent operations in Baghdad had brought events to a crucial point where Saddam Hussein's government is losing its control over the country. "It is more out of control today than it has been before. I think we are at a degree of a tipping point where, for the population, there is a broader recognition that this regime is coming to an end and will not return in the way that is has been in the past," said General Brooks.

U.S. forces are consolidating their positions in and around Baghdad, as jubilant crowds celebrate in parts of the Iraqi capital. Large crowds looted government offices, Baath Party buildings, and the U.N. compound in Baghdad. Others ransacked sports shops around the bombed out building of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which was headed by Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday.

In northern Iraq, celebrations are also reported in the Kurdish city of Erbil.

General Brooks said such celebrations should be expected as a natural reaction after decades of rule by Saddam Hussein's government.

U.S. troops today have taken up positions in different locations in Baghdad, the northeast, northwest, southwest, and southeast.

General Brooks said American forces have been free to operate wherever they wish in the Iraqi capital. But U.S. forces are encountering pockets of resistance in the city, as well as in ongoing operations around Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and the city of Mosul.

General Brooks was asked for further clarification on an incident Tuesday when a U.S. tank fired at the Palestine Hotel in downtown Baghdad, killing two journalists.

"What we know at this point is that the reports that have come up to us is that they received fire and returned fire," he said. "Everything else beyond that is speculative and must be investigated much more thoroughly and I am certainly not in any position to describe anything further at this point in time."

A third journalist, a correspondent for the al-Jazeera network, was also killed Tuesday when a missile struck the building where the Arabic language news channel has its offices.