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Information minister: Iraq still controls airport

U.S. Central Command dismisses claim

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denies reports that U.S. forces have entered Baghdad.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denies reports that U.S. forces have entered Baghdad.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Casting a vastly different picture than the U.S. military Saturday, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denied reports that U.S. Army and Marine forces were in the Iraqi capital, saying the Americans were playing tricks.

A U.S. Central Command spokesman said Saturday that U.S. forces had moved into the heart of Baghdad from the south and the southeast, a day after securing the airport, west of the Iraqi capital.

Al-Sahaf denied that report, saying the Republican Guard has control of Saddam International Airport after fighting a fierce battle.

"Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport," al-Sahaf said. "The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed."

Capt. Frank Thorp, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, called the claim "groundless," saying "there is sporadic fighting at the airport."

"We have heard these reports from the minister of information, which are, quite frankly, groundless," he said. "This is the same minister of information who yesterday was saying that coalition forces were approximately 100 kilometers away from the city."

Central Command said U.S. forces secured the airport, about 11 miles [17 kilometers] southwest of the city center, on Friday and renamed it Baghdad International Airport.

Calling them "miserable villains" and "racist mercenaries," al-Sahaf painted a bleak picture of the fate of American troops at the airport.

"Their casualties and bodies are many. Their equipment and vehicles, several were destroyed," he said. "They are still trying to bomb with artillery and [rocket-propelled grenades] to hit the Republican Guard who are controlling Saddam International Airport."

Al-Sahaf said he would take reporters to the airport later in the day, after it was cleaned up.

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