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Iraq: Artillery Fire, Explosions In Baghdad

Baghdad, 6 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Explosions were heard in central Baghdad early this morning a day after U.S.-led forces made their first incursion into the Iraqi capital. Reports said artillery fire also shook the southwest part of the city this morning.

Yesterday, U.S. troops -- backed by tanks and armored vehicles -- battled Iraqi Republican Guard forces as they went up to the Tigris River from the southern outskirts of the city before moving west towards the airport.

Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf reported Baghdad was still firmly under Iraqi control, but U.S. Major General Victor Renuart said U.S. troops could now move into Baghdad as and when they choose.

In his weekly radio address, U.S. President George W. Bush said Iraqi forces are in their "final days."

"American and coalition forces are steadily advancing against the regime of Saddam Hussein. With each new village they liberate, our forces are learning more about the atrocities of that regime, and the deep fear the dictator has instilled in the Iraqi people.

U.S. Lieutenant General Michael Moseley yesterday announced that coalition aircraft had begun a 24-hour patrol operation over Baghdad to be able to respond to needs of troops on the ground.

Iraqi television showed footage yesterday of Hussein meeting with his two sons Qusay and Uday, top aides, and military commanders. It was not possible to say when or where the tape was made.

Earlier in the day, a message reportedly from the Iraqi leader urged the armed forces and ordinary citizens to step up their defense.

Red Cross workers told news agencies yesterday that several hundred war wounded and dozens of dead had been brought to four Baghdad hospitals since 4 April. Reuters reports thousands have fled the city, the target of 17 straight days of bomb and missile attacks.