Loyalists Abandoning Tikrit

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Apr 14, 2001
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Hussein's Town Expected to Fall
No Preparations for Defense Seen in Tikrit, Where Last Stand Was Feared

By Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 12, 2003; Page A24

MARINE COMBAT HEADQUARTERS, Iraq, April 11 -- Intelligence from a Predator reconnaissance drone indicates that loyalists to former president Saddam Hussein may be abandoning their posts in his home town of Tikrit rather than preparing for a last stand as some strategists had feared, U.S. officers said today.

The video, taken over the predominantly Sunni city 90 miles north of Baghdad, showed no massing of troops or any other defensive preparations, they said. Instead, it contained some of the same pictures of looting in the streets seen in other cities taken over by U.S. forces around Iraq in recent days.

Tikrit, although it has only 30,000 inhabitants, had been seen by some officers and analysts as a possible stronghold for a last stand by Hussein's military and paramilitary forces, perhaps by his family and other close associates as well. U.S. air power has been pounding military and leadership targets around the town for three weeks, significantly weakening any remaining combat units, defense and intelligence officials said.

In addition to being Hussein's home base, they recalled, Tikrit is famed in the Arab world as the birthplace of Saladin, the Muslim military leader who drove the Crusaders from Jerusalem in 1187.

All Iraq's other major cities or centers of resistance have fallen -- including Mosul, which was abandoned today -- since U.S. and British forces invaded from Kuwait three weeks ago.

The rapid breakdown of Hussein's forces left U.S. commanders confused as to what to do next. War planners mapping out a final assault on Baghdad on Wednesday morning abandoned their work that night after crowds took to the streets and the government collapsed. They turned their attention to Kirkuk Thursday, only to find themselves again behind events. Today they had little left to think about but Tikrit, and now that, too, may prove moot.

"Just like everybody else I thought this would be the last stand," said Lt. Col. David Pere, senior watch officer at the Marine headquarters in the Iraqi desert. "But I don't think there's a last stand left."

Born in the village of Auja just outside Tikrit in 1937, Hussein relied on the area, which also embraces outlying villages totaling more than 100,000 people. Since becoming president in 1979, he filled the government with Tikritis and built up the city with oil funds, including a university, schools, mosques and hospitals. He also constructed a lavish palace where his wife and daughters often stay.

Accompanying the public institutions were military fortifications. A reporter who visited last year found antiaircraft guns, surface-to-air missile launchers and radar units ringing the city, uniformed soldiers racing around the streets and observations posts in key locations.

Still, with the evaporation of Iraqi forces around the country, U.S. field commanders have grown increasingly unimpressed by the vaunted Fortress Tikrit, as some analysts had dubbed it. U.S. fighters and bombers have begun pounding Tikrit again to soften up any remaining defenses.

"Tikrit won't take us half a day, if we're sent there," Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, scoffed in an interview this week.

Other officers said Hussein loyalists could mount guerrilla attacks against U.S. forces at Tikrit but nothing that would stop them from seizing the city if they are ordered to. "They didn't see any signs of military operations, vehicles, any of that stuff," Pere said of the Predator video. "They did see looting and milling around in the streets."

Another city that had loomed as a potential problem for U.S. forces seemed to come into the fold today without any trouble. In recent days, U.S. military intelligence had detected signs that Iraqi soldiers and foreign guerrillas were regrouping in Kut; as many as 2,000 fighters were believed to be gathering to launch attacks on U.S. forces.

To prepare for a possible battle, Marine commanders ordered more troops to return to Kut, which was largely bypassed on the drive to Baghdad when the Republican Guard division there appeared to collapse. But when Marine officers approached the city today, they were met by the leading sheik, who told them anti-Hussein Shiite fighters had driven out the pro-government forces three days ago, according to reports reaching Marine headquarters here.

With combat subsiding, U.S. troops spent much of the day hunting down tips of prisoners and banned weapons. An elderly, well-dressed Iraqi approached Marines to report that he had been pressed into service as a translator for U.S. prisoners of war at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison about 25 miles west of Baghdad, officers here said. U.S. forces rushed to the prison but found neither American nor Iraqi prisoners.

British forces allied with the United States also chased down rumors of Kuwaiti prisoners held in an underground prison south of Amarah in eastern Iraq. About 600 Kuwaitis remain missing from the Iraqi invasion and occupation of 1990-91 and their return has been a top priority for U.S. policymakers eager to repay Kuwait for its support in this war.

According to U.S. and British officials, a village leader told the British troops in the area that local Iraqis had been feeding people trapped in an underground prison through a tube for the last 20 days. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait separately received a report that Kuwaiti prisoners might be held in the region, according to officers here.

British troops went and dug up a bunker with no signs of prisoners, officers said. They planned to return in daylight on Saturday to look around some more.

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. military investigators were interrogating their own prisoners captured recently. They included 18 Arab fighters captured after a fight at a prominent mosque near the center of Baghdad Thursday, most of them Syrians and a few Jordanians.

"They have basically come over here thinking it was their chance to kill Americans," said Maj. Barry Montgomery, a Marine intelligence officer.

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Alistar7

Lifer
May 13, 2002
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How can they loot without US soldiers there??? We need to get our assin there before we fvck up our right to be blamed.


That's good to hear though, this thing might be wrapped up with an unbelievably low amount of civilian casualties, it's unfortunate we could not liberate most of those before they were killed by their "protectors".
 

razor2025

Diamond Member
May 24, 2002
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that's a good news. Things are turning out LOT better than what the so called "analyst" had said.
 

Bite

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Apr 14, 2001
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Wow -- Tikrit is the birthplace of Saladin -- wonder if he is spinnin' in his grave what with all his descendants runnin' scared and all....
 

Bleep

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Oct 9, 1999
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Wow -- Tikrit is the birthplace of Saladin -- wonder if he is spinnin' in his grave what with all his descendants runnin' scared and all....

He probably would not care, he spent most of his life in Egypt.

Bleep
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
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He probably would not care, he spent most of his life in Egypt.
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The fact that he's dead may contribute to his lack of concern too, don't ya think?
 

T2T III

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
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Originally posted by: Moonbeam
He probably would not care, he spent most of his life in Egypt.
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The fact that he's dead may contribute to his lack of concern too, don't ya think?
Moonbeam and his logic.
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