Marines in Tikrit, Encounter Sporadic Resistance
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2003 U.S. Marines encountered sporadic resistance as they moved into Tikrit today, U.S. Central Command officials said this morning during a press conference in Qatar.
Tikrit is the hometown of Saddam Hussein, and military officials had said the area could be a tough nut to crack. However, the Marines entered the city easily and are extending their control, officials said.
The only significant combat in Iraq during the previous day was in Tikrit, Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said. "The land component sent a Marine task force to attack from Baghdad to Tikrit," he said, noting that the force met little resistance between the two locations.
"The attack continued yesterday and its first efforts were to isolate Tikrit," said Brooks, CENTCOM's deputy chief of operations. The Marines entered Tikrit today and secured the presidential palace and began the search for regime supporters.
The same is true in the rest of Iraq. "The coalition is expanding areas of influence throughout the country and concentrating efforts on security and stability," Brooks said. Coalition forces are operating to surround Tikrit to prevent Saddam's henchmen from escaping.
Brooks said the signs of everyday life are returning to Iraq. Reports of looting in liberated areas have declined, and Iraqis are starting to work with coalition forces to provide security, to get critical infrastructure facilities back up and running, and to provide basic health and medical services, he noted.
Brooks said coalition forces are receiving help from the Iraqi people in identifying foreign fighters who came into the country to fight for Saddam.
Coalition special operations forces expanded their contacts in the northern cities of Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk. Brooks also announced that coalition forces have completely secured the northern oil fields. Specialists must now check the fields for regime sabotage and unexploded ordnance.
Brooks said it will be months before the fields produce again. He said the regime did not apply money allocated to maintain the fields. Iraqi oil experts worked with coalition forces to extinguish fires in the oil fields and at processing plants.
Elements of the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit reinforced the special operations forces in the north. The 173rd is based in Vincenza, Italy, and the 26th at Camp Lejeune, N.C.