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Coalition pounds Iraqi positions in north, south

House of 'Chemical Ali' destroyed in Basra

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A statue of Saddam Hussein lies toppled after a British tank pulled it over Saturday in Basra.

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CNN's Mike Boettcher reports on a special operations team that expected an ordinary day at an outpost but ended up under Iraqi mortar fire.
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CNN's Brent Sadler reports that Iraqi opposition forces in the north are amazed at reports of U.S. tanks in Baghdad and are ready to join the fight.
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CNN's Martin Savidge reports on the Marines' push to Baghdad from the southeast of the city.
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SOUTHEAST OF BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- While U.S. tanks and troops were raiding into the heart of Baghdad on Saturday, the military campaign rolled on in northern and southern Iraq.

A column of U.S. Marine Corps vehicles moved slowly north toward Baghdad on Sunday morning, taking aim at small pockets of resistance along the way.

Heavy fighting ahead held up the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, for part of the night, reported CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, who is embedded with the unit.

Evidence of the fighting was visible all around, he said. For the first time, his unit saw a destroyed U.S. M1A1 Abrams tank in the middle of the road, a blackened hulk of what it used to be.

It was unclear whether enemy fire destroyed the tank or whether the tank was so damaged that the Marines put it out of commission, Savidge said.

Burned-out buildings and indications of oil fires lined the side of the road, as did people waving white flags as they walked or drove past the U.S. forces.

Most were groups of a dozen or fewer men and women. As the troops passed by, many communicated the best they could, putting their thumbs up or yelling, "Good," or "Love you."

The Marines told Savidge that the 5th Marines had traveled the same road about 48 hours before. They ran into Iraqi resistance, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy small-arms fire. At least three tanks were hit, and the unit suffered casualties, they said.

Sunday morning, the 7th Marines were entering the extreme southeast part of the Baghdad area, Savidge reported, trying to meet up with the forward element.

Farther south, U.S. Special Forces and British troops continued to try to subdue pockets of resistance in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

A Special Forces unit setting up a checkpoint near a university Saturday came under fire from at least 10 mortar shells, reported CNN correspondent Mike Boettcher, embedded in the area.

Twenty rocket-propelled grenades were found in a bunker and detonated by U.S. troops, Boettcher reported. As they have been moving through Basra, coalition forces have been finding stashes of weapons left behind by Iraqi fighters, he said.

U.S. Central Command said Saturday that the home of Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majeed -- nicknamed "Chemical Ali" -- in Basra was destroyed. Al-Majeed was not captured.

The general, a cousin of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is suspected of ordering the use of chemical weapons against Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988, killing about 5,000 people. Coalition forces have been searching for him.

On Saturday in Nasiriya, U.S. Marines conducting house-to-house searches for weapons found the dog tags of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the U.S. soldier who had been held prisoner at a hospital in the city before she was rescued, reported CNN correspondent Jason Bellini, embedded with the Marine Expeditionary Unit, 15th Artillery.

The dog tags were found in a house belonging to a member of Iraq's ruling Baath party, Bellini reported. The Marines plan to return them to Lynch, who is recovering in a hospital in Germany, he said. (Full story)

Iraqis wounded in the battle for Nasiriya are being treated at Saddam Hospital, where Lynch was held. Bellini, who toured the hospital, said a number of them are recovering from serious injuries, including missing limbs.

Kurds, Special Forces engage Iraqis in north

Along the southeastern edge of the northern front, U.S. Special Forces, working with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, called in airstrikes on Iraqi bunker positions along a ridge, CNN correspondent Brent Sadler reported.

Sadler, embedded with U.S. forces in the area, said F-15 and B-52 bombers dropped more than two dozen 500-pound bombs on the Iraqi positions after Special Forces troops on the ground pinpointed their locations. Secondary explosions of Iraqi ordnance were heard after the blasts, he said.

Peshmerga fighters along the northern front are now a little more than an hour's drive from Baghdad and hope to be the first Iraqi opposition troops in the city, Sadler reported. Between the Peshmerga and Baghdad lie units of Iraq's elite Republican Guard and possibly Saddam Fedayeen paramilitary fighters, he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.


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