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U.S troops enter Baghdad

U.S. soldiers take cover Friday as they work to secure Saddam International Airport on Friday.
U.S. soldiers take cover Friday as they work to secure Saddam International Airport on Friday.

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NEAR BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers and tanks have entered Baghdad and are operating inside the city on a reconnaissance mission, U.S. Army sources told CNN Correspondent Walter Rodgers.

Rodgers reported on Saturday several units of tanks from the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division had entered the city.

"It does appear very clearly from the maps we've seen that what the army is striving to do at this point is carve out chunks of the city," Rodgers said. "[To] bite off a chunk of Baghdad and then take that chunk and literally dismember the city zone by zone so that each of these zones falls under the control of the U.S. Army."

Rodgers was unable, due to restrictions on embedded reporters, to give more details of the operation.

The report of the advance of U.S. tanks into Baghdad came on the 17th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Earlier on Saturday, huge explosions lit up Baghdad as the U.S.-led coalition closed in on the city after seizing its international airport.

Republican Guard forces were heading towards the airport to bolster Iraqi troops in the vicinty that had mounted several offensives on the site, a source in Baghdad told CNN.

The airport, about 20 kilometers southwest of downtown Baghdad, was the scene of heavy fighting on Friday. A bloody coalition assault left hundreds of Iraqis dead as a U.S.-led force secured the airport.

Coalition troops are battling to retain control of the facility and U.S. reinforcements are on their way. (Airport map)

"The coalition has a substantial number of forces on the ground at Baghdad International Airport," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said at a Pentagon briefing. "We are still sporadically engaging forces on the airport grounds and clearing buildings there."

Hundreds, or possibly thousands, of civilians were fleeing the city on Friday -- in some places stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic heading out of the Iraqi capital.

In a videotaped address broadcast Friday, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to defend the capital "with what you have available."

Saddam referred to incidents that happened after war began, including the downing of a helicopter, suggesting he survived the coalition airstrike last month.

Iraqi TV also showed images of what appeared to be Saddam walking the streets of Baghdad and being greeting by passersby.

Both tapes are being analyzed by U.S. intelligence agencies. Pentagon officials say it is likely Saddam is alive. (Questions raised)

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday it "doesn't matter" whether the video was genuine.

"Whether it is him or whether it isn't him, the regime's days are numbered and coming to an end," Fleischer said.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said on Friday the U.S. forces at the airport were "an isolated island" and Iraqi troops had "nailed down" or turned back other coalition advances.

He said U.S. forces would face "something that is not conventional" on Friday night. But that threat apparently did not materialize.

Sahaf said Iraq will not use weapons of mass destruction against advancing coalition troops but he threatened widespread use of "martyrdom" and said the action would "not be by military."

In other developments:

• A U.S. soldier has been formally charged with two counts of murder in a grenade attack in Kuwait last month. Hasan Akbar, a combat engineer with the 101st Airborne division, is accused of throwing grenades into tents at a U.S. military camp. Two U.S. officers died from wounds they received in the incident. (Murder charge)

• U.S. President George W. Bush will meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair next week in Northern Ireland to discuss the war in Iraq and peace efforts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, the White House said Friday. (Full story)

• A car bomb attack at a coalition checkpoint in western Iraq killed at least five people on Friday -- including three coalition troops -- U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said. (Bomb attack)

• The north Iraqi town of Khazar fell to Kurdish forces backed by U.S. bombing strikes on Friday. (Kurds advance)

• An Iraqi man who helped U.S. Marines plan the rescue of the 19-year-old American prisoner of war, Jessica Lynch, has been granted refugee status and described by the Marines as a "hero." ('Hero') Lynch was not shot or stabbed, doctors treating her said, as previously reported. (Rescued POW)

• A senior Pentagon official said the U.S. might try to install a new Iraqi government before the war is over -- perhaps as early as next week. (New government)

• The White House is currently working on a plan for an interim Iraqi government once the fighting ends, officials say. (Diverse groups)

• The World Health Organization said Friday that injuries suffered as a direct result of the conflict in Iraq are currently the top public health problem in that nation.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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