Hundreds of Iraqis cheered, danced, waved and threw flowers as U.S. Marines advanced through eastern Baghdad and into the center of President Saddam Hussein's capital on Wednesday.
People, mainly young and middle-aged men were chanting, blowing horns and throwing flowers, witnesses said, according to news agencies. A Reuters correspondent with the troops said crowds mobbed a Marine convoy as it drove through the suburbs to the Martyr's Monument, just three km east of the central Jumhuriya Bridge over the Tigris river.
Britain said command and control in Baghdad seems to have disintegrated. With no sign of police or government authority on the streets of central Baghdad, cheering looters sacked shops and offices, taking over such major sites as the Olympic committee building - headquarters of Saddam's son Uday - and the UN center, where looters drove off UN-owned cars.
In a further sign of government disintegration, Information Ministry officials who have shadowed foreign reporters through nearly three weeks of war were nowhere to be seen on Wednesday, reporters said.
U.S. Army and Marine units hunted down small bands of Iraqi fighters, while widespread looting of government computers, furniture and even military jeeps took place across the city Wednesday.
Elsewhere in the capital, U.S. forces steadily expanded their reach, opening a new northern corridor, securing a military airport, capturing a prison and setting fire to a Republican Guard barracks.
U.S. commanders also focused attention on another target - Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, still a stronghold of loyalist troops. (Albawaba.com)
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