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Iraq: U.S. Troops Cheered In Baghdad, Though Resistance Continues

Baghdad, 9 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. forces swept through Baghdad today cheered by joyful Iraqis, three weeks after the start of the war against President Saddam Hussein's regime. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today said Baghdad is in the process of being liberated, although pockets of resistance still persisted in the capital and other cities.

"Baghdad is in the process of being liberated, although battles continue in and around the city, and the regime has been run out of a number of Iraqi cities and towns, but other Iraqi cities are still being contested, and there will still be tough fighting and difficult tasks ahead," Rumsfeld said.

Amid an apparent collapse of the Iraqi command-and-control structures in the capital, many residents welcomed coalition tanks and armored vehicles as they advanced into the center.

Jubilant Iraqis danced on a toppled six-meter statue of Saddam and dragged its severed head through the streets of Baghdad as celebration and rampant looting marked the Iraqi regime's downfall in the capital.

But Rumsfeld today warned that dangerous days are still ahead. He said fighting in Iraq will continue for some time to come.

The U.S. military said coalition forces were battling regime loyalists in northern Iraq, including Saddam's hometown, Tikrit.

Rumsfeld said the whereabouts of Saddam and his two sons are not known. He said intelligence reports indicate Syria may have assisted Baghdad by helping Saddam loyalists escape.

U.S. air forces have pummeled Iraqis positioned in the north and U.S. and Kurdish forces were reported to have taken some key heights above Mosul.