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U.S. Forces Take Control of Tikrit - 2003-04-14


U.S Marines have taken control of the city center in Tikrit, Iraq, and are working to clear out any last resistance. Tikrit is considered home to one of the last large concentrations of forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, and is near the town where the former Iraqi leader was born. VOA-TV’s George Dwyer has the very latest on the “Battle for Tikrit.”

American forces used artillery and helicopter gunships in support of their drive to take control of Tikrit.

Reporters travelling with the troops say the Americans encountered armed resistance from ground troops on the outskirts of the city, including one incident Sunday, when five Iraqi tanks moved south from Tikrit to attack an advancing American column. All five were destroyed.

So far there are no reports of any U.S. casualties, but, Group Captain Al Lockwood, Chief Spokesman for the British forces at Central Command Forward Headquarters says the danger is not over yet.

AL LOCKWOOD
"I can tell you that in Tikrit there is still some way to go before normalization and stabilization happens. We expect to meet resistance in Tikrit from pockets of paramilitaries and other irregular forces and we will deal with them if they do not wish to surrender to us."

The commander of U.S. forces, General Tommy Franks, has been cautious in his comments as well, telling American television Sunday it would be premature to declare the war over.

GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS
"But if you take a look at the objectives that we set out for ourselves, moving all the way through, giving Iraqis an opportunity to establish a government of their own choosing, then we still have some work to do and so we’re going to continue that; and I think it’s very difficult to predict how long that’ll take."

As to the fate of Saddam Hussein himself, that remains a mystery. U.S. officials say forensic experts have samples of Saddam's DNA, genetic material that could be used to match any remains found at sites where air strikes could have killed him.

Coalition forces are hunting for other senior officials of the ousted government.

Monday, the U.S. military confirmed that Saddam's half-brother, a former interior minister, has been taken into coalition custody. He was on a list of the 55 most-wanted senior Iraqi figures.

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