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Baghdad Turns 'Ugly'; US Forces Try to Maintain Order, Control - 2003-04-10

Fighting continues in Baghdad with one U.S. military spokesman describing the Iraqi capital as "an ugly city." At least one U.S. Marine was killed and several more were wounded in a suicide bombing attack in Baghdad while coalition troops engaged Saddam loyalists in another part of Baghdad.

The suicide attack took place at a U.S. Marine checkpoint near the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Reporters embedded with U.S. troops said an Iraqi man approached the checkpoint and blew himself up.

Earlier, U.S. troops engaged in a fierce firefight with Saddam loyalists near a mosque in northwest Baghdad.

Air Force Major General Gene Renuart told reporters at Central Command headquarters in Qatar that U.S. troops have now cordoned off Baghdad, preventing pro-Saddam fighters from leaving or entering the city.

"Baghdad is still an ugly place. There are many parts of the city that are either not secured by U.S. forces or are unsecured at all," he said. "There are other places in the city where we believe there are still pockets of remaining small elements of Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard and paramilitary forces. And that really is the objective of our operations in Baghdad now is to go to those locations and return some stability."

Correspondent Alisha Ryu has gotten a first-hand look at the situation in central Baghdad. She toured the city with two of the top commanders of U.S. ground forces in Iraq.

"And I can tell you that the fighting is not entirely over. There are areas that are still very, very unsafe, if not very explosive," she said. "But there were explosions and we heard numerous gunshots."

Alisha Ryu also says that the few civilians she saw on her tour gave U.S. troops a warm reception.

"They were friendly. They were giving us thumbs-up signs," she said. "They were holding up white flags and bringing out children and they were meeting the convoy in a very, very friendly manner. So I think the generals were glad to see that kind of reception."

In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters, backed by U.S. Special Forces, entered the strategic city of Kirkuk. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says U.S. troops will soon take charge of the city amid Turkish concerns that ethnic Kurds might try to expand their control in northern Iraq.

U.S. military officials say coalition forces are now aggressively targeting Iraqi units in northern Iraq. U.S. Major General Stanley McCrystal told reporters at the Pentagon that Iraqi units in the north are considered the last significant formations on the battlefield.

"But I think we are prepared to be very, very wary of what they may have and prepared for a big fight," he said.

In another sign of change in Iraq, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair broadcast a television message directly to the Iraqi people, telling them that they will soon be free.

Mr. Bush repeated his pledge that coalition forces will not stop until the entire Saddam regime is gone.

"The nightmare that Saddam Hussein has brought to your nation will soon be over," the president said. "You are a good and gifted people, the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity. You deserve better than tyranny and corruption and torture chambers. You deserve to live as free people and I assure every citizen of Iraq that your nation will soon be free."

British Prime Minister Blair sought to reassure Iraqis that outside powers will not control the country's destiny.

"And this Iraq will not be run by Britain or by the United States or by the United Nations," he said. "It will be run by you, the people of Iraq."

U.N. officials, meanwhile, are pushing for more humanitarian shipments to help Iraqi civilians. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed concern in a brief exchange with reporters in New York:

"It appears there is no functioning government Iraq at the moment, and we also saw the scenes of jubilation," he said. "But, of course, when you think of the casualties, both military and civilian, the Iraqis have paid a heavy price."

The International Red Cross was able to resume some aid deliveries in Baghdad. But Red Cross officials are calling on coalition forces to restore order in the city so that they can get badly needed medical supplies to hospitals.