troops in baghdad; battle at airport
april 4-u.s. armored units backed by warplanes overwhelmed iraqi forces at baghdad's main airport friday.
nbc, msnbc and news services
april 5- for the first time in the war for iraq, a small contingent of u.s. ground troops entered baghdad on saturday morning, u.s. military officials told nbc news. as the army troops slowly went street to street in search of iraqi fighters, the bulk of the army's 3rd infantry division was maintaining its control of main airport near baghdad against a small counterattack saturday, officials said. with marines to the southeast also pressing toward the capital, thousands of residents began streaming out of baghdad.
while elements of the 3rd infantry were inside the city limits for the first time, their mission was not the beginning of an invasion, officials at u.s. central command forward headquarters in doha, qatar, told nbc news on condition of anonymity.
the soldiers were moving in what officials described as a "strategic fashion" consistent with "possible urban warfare." they were moving street by street, "attacking and cleansing" before moving on, the officials told nbc's david shuster.
military officials at the pentagon confirmed that the infantry troops were not the main force of an invasion. the officials told nbc's carl rochelle that they were probably reconnaissaince.
other, much larger elements of the 3rd infantry who took saddam international airport fought skirmishes with iraqi soldiers throughout friday into saturday morning. by dawn, they still held the airport, which the coalition renamed baghdad international airport, but the iraqi resistance had not been put down.
"coalition forces are currently engaged with the enemy," an official at central command told nbc news on condition of anonymity. pressed for details of the engagement, the official said, "let's just say they're fighting hard to get back what they lost."
the official said the small iraqi counterattack was a more organized operation than previous engagements had been. but he said the size of the u.s. force at the airport meant the counterattack was a "suicide mission."
hundreds of u.s. soldiers were expected to reinforce the airport, their biggest prize yet in the 17-day-old war to oust saddam hussein. u.s. commanders told reuters that soldiers from the 101st airborne division and the 94th battalion would arrive within hours to reinforce the 3rd infantry division, which spearheaded the airport assault.
u.s. combat patrols were fanning through the sprawling facility, which has a 13,000-foot runway and numerous military and civilian buildings. helicopter units of the 101st airborne division started to move into the area, presumably to use the airport as a base from which to strike at targets around baghdad.
just heard about this from the msnbc site...thought i would pass it on.