Iraqi Regime Disintegration Continues
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2003 Signs of the disintegration of Saddam Hussein's regime abound in Iraq, U.S. Central Command officials said in a briefing in Qatar today.
Pockets of regime resistance remain, but CENTCOM intelligence reports regime leadership and control systems have been broken, said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks. "There are increasing indications of regime-associated individuals attempting to escape the coalition by fleeing into other countries," the deputy director of operations at the command noted.
Coalition forces continued combat operations in and around Baghdad and in the north of the country. Forces also worked on creating a climate of security and stability in liberated portions of the country, Brooks said.
There was a suicide bombing in the Saddam City portion of Baghdad that wounded four Marines and a Navy corpsman, Brooks said. In another portion of the city, soldiers cleared a minefield of more than 350 mines.
"That explosion and the clearance of the minefield serve as reminders to us that Baghdad is still a very dangerous place and that conditions are not set for life to continue," Brooks said.
Near Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, a coalition special operations commander accepted a signed surrender from the commander of the Iraqi 5th Corps commander, Brooks said. "There had been discussion and we were able to bring them to a degree of closure," Brooks said. The surrender follows a sustained bombing campaign against these regular Iraqi army forces.
Brooks said the Iraqi 5th Corps has started leaving the battlefield leaving its equipment behind. Its members are either returning to their garrisons or going home.
Special Forces soldiers, members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and Kurdish Peshmerga militia entered Kirkuk yesterday, "and ended any organized military resistance there," Brooks said. Other portions of the airborne brigade moved on to secure the Kirkuk oil fields and the military airport there.
Special operations forces continue missions in all parts of Iraq. In Baghdad, special operations personnel and mechanized infantry forces entered one of Saddam's prison complexes. The area could hold up to 15,000 prisoners, and coalition troops found it empty. "There were no coalition prisoners located at that site," Brooks said.
In the West, special operations forces took the surrender of an Iraqi colonel who controlled the border checkpoints into Syria and Jordan.
Coalition special operations forces also had a small firefight north of Tikrit. After the skirmish, they discovered five small airplanes covered with camouflage. Brooks said the craft could be used to help regime officials escape or to spread chemical or biological weapons. Coalition forces destroyed the craft.
Coalition governments have identified a list of key regime leaders who must be pursued and brought to justice. "The key list has 55 individuals who may be pursued, killed or captured," Brooks said. "This list has been provided to coalition forces on the ground in several forms." Brooks showed and talked about one example: A deck of cards with photos of the individuals.
Coalition air forces continued strikes in support of land forces, defense officials said. Brooks said coalition aircraft targeted a building near Ar Ramadi in central Iraq inhabited by Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, on April 10.
They dropped six Joint Direct Attack Munitions on the structure. Officials identified Barzan as an adviser to Hussein.
There were 1,750 total sorties on April 10. Just over 550 were strike sorties, and 80 percent of those were close-air support missions. There were 350 tanker sorties, 425 airlift missions and more than 120 command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties.
Since "G-Day" the airmen's lingo for "go day" on March 19, coalition air forces have flown more than 35,000 sorties, with 13,500 of them strike missions. Around 70 percent of all munitions dropped in the campaign have been precision-guided.
Coalition air forces maintain a constant close-air support group over Baghdad and the north.