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Iraq Claims Its Forces Control Baghdad - 2003-04-05

Iraq's minister of information has contradicted reports of coalition advances in Iraq. He said Saturday that Baghdad was firmly under Iraqi control and Iraqi troops had crushed U.S. forces who had attempted to take Baghdad's international airport.

Despite television pictures showing coalition forces in control of Iraq's main airport and operating inside Baghdad, Information Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf said Iraqi troops were routing coalition forces.

"We have crushed them in the place of Saddam International Airport," he announced. "We have pushed them outside the whole area. We are surrounding them and pounding them heavily by artillery and missile strikes."

Mr. al-Sahhaf also said he might be able to take reporters to the airport later to see for themselves.

Coalition forces say they took control of the airport Friday, renaming it Baghdad International Airport. They are also reportedly moving into the center of Baghdad.

Mr. al-Sahhaf said Iraqi forces are battling coalition armies in other places around the country, including Basra, in southern Iraq, where he said Iraqi troops have pushed coalition forces back.

When asked about reports that coalition troops were in the heart of Baghdad, Mr. al-Sahhaf said there are Iraqi checkpoints in the city and everything is okay.