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Iraq: U.S. Troops Reportedly Control Center Of Tikrit

Tikrit, Iraq; 14 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- News reports say U.S. forces now control the center of Tikrit, the last known stronghold of government resistance in Iraq. Correspondents for Agence France Presse and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television channel say U.S. soldiers reached Tikrit's main square early today without encountering strong resistance.

Al-Jazeera broadcast pictures showing U.S. Marines walking through Tikrit and tanks taking up position in the city's central square. The Arabic channel also says U.S. troops are negotiating with local tribal leaders to take out remaining pockets of resistance.

Earlier today, U.S. warplanes launched strikes south and west of Tikrit. U.S. Brigadier General John Kelly said five Iraqi tanks were destroyed and 15 people killed in firefights in the town's outskirts.

Located some 150 kilometers north of Baghdad, Tikrit is the hometown of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.