A Marine task force headed north from Baghdad on Sunday, seeking to destroy any Iraqi forces remaining on the route to Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The first TV news footage of Tikrit indicated its outer defenses had been weakened, but the CNN crew fled after coming under fire.
The live footage aired by CNN showed no signs of active Iraqi army defenses on the northern outskirts of Tikrit and suggested that intensive U.S. airstrikes had taken a heavy toll on the desert city's military forces.
However, CNN vehicles came under small-arms fire as they tried to enter the city center. A CNN security guard returned fire at least twice, and the news crew quickly drove away.
Before the shooting, CNN had reported that U.S. military officers were negotiating with tribal chiefs in Tikrit for a peaceful surrender of the city.
Asked about the CNN footage, Maj. Randi Steffy, a spokeswoman from U.S. Central Command, said, "That would be considered an ongoing operation. We don't have any information for you at this time." She added that U.S. forces are "pleased with the progress we're making in the north."
U.S. officials in the past few days have been playing down the prospect of a major battle in Tikrit because of desertions and damage from the sustained airstrikes.
Nonetheless, a task force from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was moving northward from Baghdad. Named Task Force Tripoli, it included several regimental combat teams and light-armor reconnaissance battalions, AP reported.
In Baghdad, the looting spread Sunday to a vast stretch of army barracks and warehouses on the western outskirts. Looters using trucks and horse-drawn carts stole toilets, bathtubs, sinks and construction materials from one of the largest warehouses. Nearer the city center, an institute of military studies was looted and gutted by fire.
Some buses were running. Other buses — double-decker ones — have been commandeered by looters to ferry their plunder back home.
In Mosul, the biggest city in the north, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was shot and wounded Sunday while on a patrol aimed at improving security.
Maj. Fred Dummar said the soldier was in a Land Rover, driving past a waving crowd, when a bullet smashed through the rear window and struck his leg. The wound was not believed to be life-threatening, but it was expected the soldier would be evacuated to Germany for further treatment. (Albawaba.com)
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