Coalition troops encircle Baghdad
'Surrender your forces,' U.S. general tells Iraqis
NEAR BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces encircled Baghdad on Sunday, closing off highways in and out of the Iraqi capital while Iraqi soldiers manned the streets and hunkered down for battle.
With the coalition ringing the city, the No. 2 U.S. general urged Iraqi troops to lay down their arms or pay the consequences for defending Saddam Hussein's regime.
"We prefer that the leaders of the Iraqi armed forces do the honorable thing; stop fighting for a regime that does not deserve your loyalty," Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
"Surrender your forces and give yourselves and your troops the opportunity to be a part of Iraq's future and not a part of Iraq's past."
About 7 a.m. local time Monday [11 p.m. Sunday EDT], gunfire could be heard in Baghdad as the city awoke after another night of explosions.
U.S. Central Command said earlier that more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded when coalition forces swept through Baghdad on Saturday on what was called a reconnaissance mission.
Forces from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division made reconnaissance forays into Baghdad again Sunday and faced sporadic resistance, said CNN's Walter Rodgers, who is embedded with the division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry. (On the Scene)
Meanwhile, the first U.S. military planes landed at Baghdad's international airport Sunday night, U.S. military officials said.
Army officials told Rodgers that two C-130s and a C-17 cargo plane were flying into the city under cover of darkness, two days after U.S. troops captured the facility.
Iraq contends that it is making progress in resisting U.S. forces. At a briefing, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf talked of the destruction of tanks and armored personnel carriers, and the downing of two Apache attack helicopters.
Denying that U.S. troops are occupying Baghdad's airport, al-Sahaf said, "The enemy was destroyed and retreated." He said U.S. forces got close enough to the airport to make it look as if they were there but that reports of U.S. troops in the area were "propaganda."
Possible 'friendly fire'
Military officials were investigating two possible incidents of "friendly fire" Sunday.
In northern Iraq, an errant U.S. airstrike killed 17 Kurdish Peshmerga guerrillas and a translator, and wounded 45 more, including the brother of Kurdish Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani, a spokesman for the KDP said Sunday. (Full story)
It is believed that U.S. Special Forces also were traveling in the convoy and that some might have been among the casualties, Kurdish sources said.
Central Command said it is investigating reports that coalition aircraft "may have engaged" Special Forces and friendly Kurdish ground forces about 12:15 p.m. (4:15 a.m. EDT), about 30 miles [48 kilometers] southeast of the northern city of Mosul.
In addition, U.S. Central Command said Sunday that three U.S. servicemen were killed and five others injured in a "possible friendly fire incident involving an F-15E Strike Eagle and coalition ground forces." Military officials said the names of those involved were being withheld until notification of next of kin. No other information was available.
U.S. officials also said they are looking into an attack Sunday on a convoy carrying Russian diplomats and journalists, including Russia's ambassador to Iraq. Russian officials said five people were hurt in the attack, about 19 miles [30 kilometers] outside Baghdad. A journalist in the convoy later said they were caught in crossfire between U.S. and Iraqi forces, but U.S. officials said coalition forces were not in the area at the time. (Full story)
• The U.S. Defense Department said it had completed 1,850 air sorties in the 24 hours ending at 6 a.m. Sunday Iraqi time. Of those, 600 were strike missions, 400 were refueling, 425 were transport of troops and supplies, and 150 involved command-and-control actions, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The nature of the remaining missions were not disclosed.
• In the south, British Col. Chris Vernon said three British battle groups were pushing toward the center of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, where coalition forces continue to battle pockets of resistance. (Full story)
• President Bush plans to travel to Northern Ireland for a meeting Monday and Tuesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. They are expected to discuss the military situation in Iraq as well as the U.S. plan to set up a postwar government. Bush and Blair also are expected to discuss peace efforts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland.
• U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived Sunday in Moscow for talks with senior Russian officials. Rice is expected to discuss Iraq with Russian officials even as President Vladimir Putin has softened Moscow's criticism of the U.S.-led war.
• The Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali," who reportedly ordered a deadly chemical attack in 1988 against Kurds in northern Iraq, was "probably" killed when coalition forces bombed his home this weekend, British officials said early Monday. (Full story)
• Search-and-rescue efforts continued Sunday in central Iraq for the pilot of an F/A-18C Hornet that crashed Wednesday over central Iraq, according to Central Command. Central Command said Thursday that a Patriot air-defense missile might have mistakenly shot down the U.S. Navy attack jet.
-- CNN correspondents Jill Dougherty, James Martone, Tom Mintier, Diana Muriel, Nic Robertson, Walter Rodgers, Brent Sadler, Martin Savidge and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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