BC-USIRAQ-FRONTLINE-1st-LEDE:WA—national, world (680 words)
As an armored noose all but sealed off Baghdad, a U.S. C-130 cargo plane landed Sunday at Baghdad International Airport, the first coalition aircraft known to have arrived in the Iraqi capital and a sign of increasing military control.
Iraqi TV showed video of a smiling Saddam Hussein presiding at a meeting with aides that it said was held Sunday. The network quoted Saddam as offering a $5,000 bounty for anyone who destroys a coalition tank.
In Albu Muhawish, U.S. soldiers were ordered out of a captured Iraqi military compound when tests showed evidence of sarin nerve gas in a weapons cache. More than a dozen soldiers of the Army's 101st Airborne Division had been sent earlier for decontamination after they exhibited symptoms of possible exposure to nerve agents.
In Aziziyah, about 50 miles southeast of Baghdad on the Tigris River, military specialists were examining two missiles marked with a chemical symbol recovered from a site where villagers say Iraqi forces buried containers recently and covered them with concrete.
In Rumaitha, 82nd Airborne paratroopers entered the city with virtually no resistance and were welcomed by civilians. "It's like V.E. Day here," said Army Lt. Col. Ed Rowe, executive officer with the division's second brigade.
In Irbil in northern Iraq, U.S. warplanes apparently bombed a convoy of allied Kurdish fighters and U.S. Special Forces soldiers by mistake, killing at least 19.
In Basra, Iraq's second largest city, British forces made their deepest incursion yet with a column of 40 armored vehicles.
In Salman Pak, on the Tigris about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad, troops of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines seized the headquarters of the Republican Guard's Second Corps, a possible terror camp and a presidential palace. Salman Pak is a town that military intelligence believes may contain a cache of weapons of mass destruction.
A convoy of Russian diplomats and journalists evacuating to Syria was attacked after leaving Baghdad. Central Command said coalition forces were not involved in the assault.
In Samawah, 82nd Airborne Division soldiers killed an Iraqi at a checkpoint after gas cylinders were spotted in his SUV and the driver ignored what the military said were "non-lethal" efforts to halt him.
CASUALTIES TO DATE
U.S. military: 79 dead.
British military: 27 dead.
Iraqi forces: The number of military casualties is unavailable. Coalition commanders said Sunday that at least 2,000 Iraqi solders were estimated killed defending approaches to Baghdad.
In Tehran, Iran, officials said human remains found by British forces in a military warehouse near Basra were the bodies of Iranian soldiers killed in the 1980-88 war with Iraq and called for their return.
In Beirut, a car packed with explosives was found outside a McDonald's restaurant that was dynamited Saturday, possibly part of a backlash toward U.S. and British symbols as a result of the war.
Near Baghdad, NBC reporter David Bloom, 39, was found dead of what appeared to be a pulmonary embolism not connected to combat. He had been NBC's White House correspondent before becoming co-anchor of the weekend editions of the "Today" show in 2000.
WEATHER IN BAGHDAD
Cloudy, sand storm possible.
High temperature: 88
Low temperature: 69
"A first, I was bitter, thinking we didn't have a place over here. But (the Iraqi people) are thankful for the job we're doing. We went too long letting Saddam get away with what he was doing, I think, after seeing how these people live."
_Lance Cpl. Jeremy Blount of Mobile, Ala., outside Baghdad.
"Every engagement we have is very one-sided. There's a degree of reality that I think is setting in on the people of Baghdad, and soon, I would think, on members of the regime."
_U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks.
For complete coverage of the war in Iraq, go to the Web site of the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau (www.krwashington.com).
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.