A prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric just back from exile, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, was assassinated in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. And a suicide bombing at a U.S Marine checkpoint has reported killed at least one American and wounded several others in Baghdad. This comes as U.S. troops continue to face strong resistance from fighters still loyal to Saddam Hussein. Robert Raffaele has more.
U.S. troops traded fire with supporters of Saddam Hussein, one day after the apparent collapse of the Iraqi government. Voice of America correspondent Deborah Block is with the First Marine Division in Baghdad. She described some of the firefights across the City.
DEBORAH BLOCK, VOICE OF AMERICA CORRESPONDENT
“Iraqi soldiers are shooting mortars and artillery at U.S. Marines in Baghdad and east of the city. The Marines, however, are returning fire, at what they call, selected targets, because the Iraqi fire is coming from areas full of civilians, which the Marines don’t want to hit.”
U.S. Central Command said in one firefight near a mosque, one Marine was killed and at least 20 others wounded.
At a news briefing, U.S. military officials emphasized that they were bracing for many Iraqis to fight to the death.
MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
“But it’s important to note that despite what you see in terms of localized euphoria in places in some of the cities, that this operation is a long way from complete.”
Looting continued in Baghdad, as some Iraqis raided the house of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. The crowd tore up photos, and took away furniture and other items. One woman fled with a stack of dinner plates.
At the German Embassy, crowds carried away electrical appliances and carpets. One man ripped a picture of Saddam Hussein off the wall, smashing it on the floor.
In the north, cheering crowds greeted Kurdish peshmerga fighters as they made their way to the highly prized, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The troops marched into the city, reportedly encountering little resistance from Iraqi government troops. Many civilians now returning to the city drove up to a U.S. Army checkpoint on the outskirts of town.
The fall of Kirkuk drew immediate reaction from Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Mister Gul said Ankara will send military observers into northern Iraq, to ensure the Kurds do not set up a separate state. Washington assured Turkey that U.S. Marines will take control of the city.