Another round of bombings and loud explosions rocked the Iraqi capital Baghdad Thursday night with one of Saddam Hussein's compounds and other government buildings, including a communication center, said to be targeted.
As the war against Iraq enters its second week, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are brushing off questions about the pace of the war and vowing the allies will fight for as long as it takes to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
U.S. and British air power continues to pound key government targets in the Iraqi capital in some of the heaviest bombing reported in days.
Targets in northern and southern Iraq continue to come under fire as well. In addition, one of the largest combat parachute drops since World War II, involving some 1,000 American troops, is now on the ground in northern Iraq, opening a new front in the war.
But fierce resistance by irregular Iraqi units and so-called Fedayeen paramilitaries continues in towns and cities in central and southern Iraq. This, as coalition troops remain poised to take Baghdad, said to be protected by rings of Saddam Hussein's best trained and most loyal Republican Guard fighters.
"Very likely that will be some of the toughest fighting that will occur," said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The defense secretary told a Senate hearing the battle for Baghdad could take some time, and that allied air strikes will continue in order to soften up Republican Guard targets before ground forces attempt to take the city.
"It will require the coalition forces moving through some Republican Guard units and destroying them or capturing them before you will see the crumbling of the regime," he said.
Iraq's defense minister is warning that coalition troops will face tough street-by-street fighting if they invade Baghdad, saying he thinks the war could go on for months.
After conferring on war and post-war strategy Thursday, both President Bush and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for the United Nations to resume Iraq's oil-for-food program but brushed aside questions from reporters about whether the war could drag on for months.
"Saddam Hussein will be removed no matter how long it takes," said President Bush.
"We will carry on until the job is done," Prime Minister Blair said. "But there is absolutely no point in my view of trying to set a time limit or speculate on it because it's not set by time. It's set by the nature of the job."
Three days before the war started, Vice President Dick Cheney told an American television audience he believed coalition troops would be treated by Iraqis as liberators. But battles have continued well behind allied frontlines, including for a fifth day in the town of Nasiriya, where as many as 25 Marines were reported wounded and at least 11 others are said to be missing.
In central Iraq, VOA's Alishya Ryu, who is traveling with Army's 3rd Infantry Division, reports Iraqis being interrogated by allied troops tell of Republican Guard and Saddam's Fedayeen fighters carrying out revenge attacks on them.
"From what we're told, they are murdering some of the families in front of civilians," she said. "No one's been able to go into those towns and there are no eyewitnesses to it. This is purely from the prisoners of war and fleeing refugees that have been detained by U.S. forces, but that is the latest reporting coming out."
More U.S. troops are on their way to Iraq. The U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, some 30,000 highly mechanized troops are heading to the region from their base at Ft. Hood, Texas.