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Fierce Fighting Continues as US Targets Iraqi Resistance - 2003-04-10

U.S. forces are now aggressively targeting Iraq's remaining military units in the north of the country. But a suicide bomb attack on American troops points up the dangers remaining in cities elsewhere, such as Baghdad.

Major General Stanley McChrystal of the Pentagon's Joint Staff said Iraqi army units in the north are the last significant military formations still on the battlefield.

The general told reporters at the Pentagon those Iraqi forces are being attacked from the air and the ground, and are becoming less of a potential threat daily.

"We have been targeting them aggressively, both from the air and then with the Special Operations forces for the last days, and we judge their capability to have dropped significantly, both from casualties and from people simply leaving the battlefield," said General McChrystal.

But the general says there have been no major surrenders of Iraqi soldiers in the north, even while Iraqi troops continue to give up elsewhere. He says there may be tough fighting ahead, and not only in the north.

The danger remaining in Baghdad was pointed up by a suicide bomb attack at a U.S. Marine checkpoint. At least one American soldier was killed and several others wounded.

General McChrystal said dealing with such scattered resistance is now a top priority, ahead of dealing with such problems as looting.

"Clearly, the focus right now has got to be on getting the deaths squads and the Special Republican Guard elements identified and defeated and out of the city," he said. "Because that is the major threat. Looting is a problem, but it is not a major threat. People are not being killed in looting. So, that's something we have to do as we have the time and capability to do it. Sure, we want the looting to stop."

In other developments, U.S. Special Forces and Army troops have entered the key northern oil city of Kirkuk along with Kurdish fighters.

But the Pentagon says it has no new information on the whereabouts or fate of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Similarly, officials say they have nothing to report on the apparently unsuccessful hunt thus far for Iraq's chemical and biological weapons.