American forces continued to dispose of the much-vaunted Republican Guard, although U.S. commanders were concerned that many of Saddam Hussein's best soldiers may be hiding out, ready to return to battle in Baghdad.
Friday, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force fought the Nida division between Baghdad and Kut, to the south. It was only a few days ago that two other Republican Guard divisions were scattered. The other three divisions are believed to be north of the capital, blocked from moving to Baghdad by checkpoints and air attacks.
The troops who unsuccessfully defended Saddam International Airport mostly were conscripts, not the elite soldiers who might have been expected, U.S. Central Command officers said in their daily briefing for President Bush.
South of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers moved to secure a bridge north of Karbala to block reinforcements from moving through there to the capital. Farther south, in Samawah, American forces continued to clear out paramilitary units to assure safe supply lines.
In northwest Iraq, three American soldiers died when a car carrying an apparently pregnant woman exploded at a checkpoint. The woman and driver also died.
The woman had run out of the car, screaming, before it exploded.
In Mankubah, also in the north, there was an intense battle between Saddam's fedayeen and Kurdish guerrillas fighting with the guidance of U.S. special forces.
Fears remained high regarding a potential chemical attack by the increasingly desperate Saddam regime. A Marine aviator thought he saw signs of such an attack when he spotted a motionless flock of sheep on the ground near Numaniyah, southeast of Baghdad. The sheep were merely asleep.
CASUALTIES TO DATE
U.S. military: 60 dead.
British military: 27 dead.
Iraqi forces: Unavailable.
In Landstuhl, Germany, a spokesman for the military hospital treating Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch said the former POW in Iraq was not shot or stabbed as previously reported. Her injuries include fractures to her right arm, both legs, right foot and ankle and lumbar spine, said the spokesman, Col. David Rubenstein. She has undergone several successful surgeries, said Rubenstein, who added that he could not say whether her injuries came in battle or while in Iraqi custody.
In Silopi, Turkey, a United Nations convoy of 31 huge trucks filled with wheat flour was bound for northern Iraq. The massive relief delivery is part of a U.N. effort to establish itself—and not the United States—as the main coordinator for post-war aid.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said post-war Iraq would be "run by Iraqis" and that an interim authority would not merely be "a coalition-imposed provisional government."
It would include Iraqi exiles as well leaders in Iraq who opposed Saddam, Secretary of State Colin Powell said. But the new government's leader is not expected to be London-based exile Ahmed Chalabi, who had the backing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Officials outside the Pentagon said Chalabi would not have popular support and would be seen as a U.S.-imposed leader.
Still to be decided is the role the United Nations will play in reconstruction. That will be a topic Monday when President Bush travels to Northern Ireland to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair has pushed for the United Nations to help organize postwar Iraq, a desire Bush has not embraced.
While working on the appropriations bill for the war, the Senate added a $700 million provision to increase the extra battle pay that some soldiers receive. The provision would raise imminent-danger pay from $150 a month to $225. Also, the allowance given to families with a member on active duty would go from $100 a month to $250. The provision will be discussed next week when the Senate and House of Representatives negotiate the final version of the $80 billion spending bill.
Michael Kelly, editor at large for The Atlantic Monthly and a columnist for the Washington Post, died in a Humvee accident while with troops in Iraq. Kelly, 46, was the first American journalist to die in the war as well as the first among the 600 embedded with U.S. forces. Four other journalists have died in the conflict.
WEATHER IN BAGHDAD
High temperature: 95
Low temperature: 65
"Send in a jet now. It's time to go home."
_Army Sgt. Martin Perez, of Colorado Springs, Colo., after the successful battle for Saddam International Airport
Saddam Hussein is "between the dog and the fire hydrant."
_Air Force Lt. Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, describing the pressure on Iraq's leader as ground forces move toward Baghdad
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.