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Iraq: U.S. Forces Enter Presidential Palace; 'Chemical Ali' Reported Dead

Baghdad, 7 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. troops moved deep into central Baghdad today, and said they entered Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's main presidential palace. A U.S. military spokesman said U.S. troops had "secured the main presidential palace." Another U.S. spokesman said two U.S. marines were killed and "multiple" marines were injured in fighting to secure two bridges over a tributary of the Tigris river on the eastern edge of Baghdad.

U.S. military commanders said troops also had secured key buildings in the city center. Correspondents said the ministries of information and foreign affairs are still in Iraqi hands.

A U.S. Defense Department official in Washington said the military operation underway in Baghdad is "a show of force" designed to demonstrate U.S. resolve.

Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf today told reporters in central Baghdad that the capital is "safe" and that Iraqi troops are "slaughtering" U.S. forces.

"They (U.S. forces) have no control, even of themselves. Don't believe them. Those invaders will be slaughtered."

Since coalition forces seized Baghdad's international airport over the weekend, they have encircled the Iraqi capital. U.S. military sources say U.S. troops have cut off major key roads in and out of the city.

In the south today, a British military spokesman said British forces are in control of Basrah, Iraq's second largest city, but are still facing some resistance.

A British military spokesman said today a top Iraqi military commander known as "Chemical Ali" has been found dead in Basrah.

Major Andrew Jackson said troops had found the body of Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Iraqi President Hussein, along with the bodies of al-Majid's bodyguard and the head of Iraqi intelligence services.

The British Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report.

Hussein had entrusted al-Majid with the defense of southern Iraq against invading coalition forces.

Opponents of Hussein had dubbed al-Majid "Chemical Ali" for ordering a poison gas attack in 1988 that killed several thousand Kurds.