U.S. shifts tactics amid apparent collapse of resistance in Baghdad

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - As organized military resistance in the Iraqi capital fell apart, American forces were shifting gears, planning to keep pushing straight through Baghdad, a senior Defense Department official said Wednesday.

That's a change of tactics, with troops no longer needing to continue in-and-out forays begun over the weekend to clean out resistance in the capital piece-by-piece.

Pentagon officials cautioned that there were still small pockets of resistance inside and around Baghdad and some moving around of Iraqi forces. There also were other parts of the country where more fighting was possible, they said.

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They hoped that this was the ''tipping point'' war planners had hoped for.

''What you're seeing is a recognition that the regime is gone and will never return again,'' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told a press conference at the war's command center in Qatar.

Defense Department officials said the situation was fluid and they were still trying to sort out the tactical meaning of encouraging overnight developments.

At police stations, universities, government ministries, the headquarters of the Iraq Olympic Committee, looters unhindered by any police presence made off with computers, furniture, even military jeeps. Iraqis danced in the streets, waving rifles, palm fronds and flags, thrusting their arms in the air and flashing the V-for-victory sign.

The celebrations came after one of the quietest nights in Baghdad since the war began.

The whereabouts of Saddam Hussein remained unknown after a massive bombing on a suspected hiding place Monday.

U.S. forces were spread through quite a bit of Baghdad, officials said, though they didn't have an update of the percent of the city taken.

Aside from Baghdad, there was a question of how much work remained in the north of the country.