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US Marines Face Little Resistance at Tikrit, Find 7 Missing Americans - 2003-04-13


U.S. troops have moved in on Tikrit, the hometown of deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. Along the way, the U.S. troops got a pleasant surprise.

Mindful of the reports of the presence of irregular Fedayeen forces around the town, U.S. troops moved gingerly into Tikrit. But they encountered little resistance, and there have been no significant firefights for control of Saddam Hussein's hometown.

But while on the move to Tikrit, U.S. forces came upon seven U.S. soldiers who had been listed as missing or prisoners of war. Two have gunshot wounds. But speaking on the CNN program Late Edition, General Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, said the seven are fine.

"I know that they are in good shape," he said. "And I know that they are in our hands and under our control now, and that is good."

The seven are among 12 U.S. service members listed as missing or taken prisoner during the war.

In Baghdad, there were sporadic firefights with holdouts of the deposed Saddam Hussein regime. Central Command spokesman Brigadier General Vince Brooks said the fight to pacify Baghdad is not yet over.

"There are many more issues to be dealt with in Baghdad, one, because of its size, and secondly, because of the intense pressure the regime had inside that city," said General Brooks.

But eyewitnesses say the spasm of looting that has swept through the Iraqi capital has died down somewhat. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu says U.S. troops have increased security measures, setting up checkpoints at various parts of the city. "The looting that has gone on with the ministries and the hotels and embassies in that area, that has diminished considerably," said Ms. Ryu. "People seem to have taken what they wanted, and are no longer in that area. Of course, the security is much higher today, than it has been in the last couple of days."

Attention is beginning to turn to politics in Iraq. The United States plans to run things in Iraq until a temporary Iraqi civilian authority can be constituted. On Tuesday, a meeting will be convened in southern Iraq to discuss setting up an interim authority.

In an interview with British television, Secretary of State Colin Powell denied that anyone has been selected to run the interim authority.

"The United States has not anointed anyone to be the future leader of Iraq, or to be the leader of the IIA, the Interim Iraqi Authority," said Mr. Powell. "We believe very strongly that the Iraqi people and representatives of the Iraqi people in the first instance are the ones who should do that. The president [Bush] has made it very clear that we are not in the business of installing the next president of Iraq."

There are sharp divisions in U.S. policymaking circles about whether controversial exile leader Ahmad Chalabi should head the interim authority, or if that job should go to someone else.

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