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U.S. forces drub Baghdad defenders, WMD search continues

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- U.S. military combat action in Baghdad yesterday may have inflicted thousands of casualties on the enemy, a senior U.S. Central Command spokesperson said today.

"It certainly demonstrated our ability to operate within Baghdad at a time and place of our choosing and to inflict severe damage on anyone that opposes the force that comes into Baghdad," Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, CENTCOM deputy director for operations, said at the organization's forward headquarters in Qatar.

Based on U.S. military estimates of yesterday's combat in Baghdad, enemy casualties "could be on the order of 2,000, it could be more than 2,000, it could be somewhat less than 2,000," Brooks noted.

There are still parts of three Iraqi divisions in and around Baghdad, the general remarked, but no movements of large enemy forces have been seen lately.

U.S. forces in Baghdad have been confronting company-sized enemy units, which "are dealt with" when encountered, Brooks said.

He pointed out that Hussein's regime continues to put Iraq's civilian population at risk by hiding ordnance and other military assets close to residential areas. U.S. and coalition forces' mission is to destroy the regime and its military capability, not the Iraqi people, he emphasized.

Brooks noted that the U.S. military has also secured Baghdad's international airport, contrary to what Iraqi propaganda is saying on the country's state-controlled television network.

Yesterday's U.S. military action in Baghdad "also makes a very clear statement about how much control the regime does or does not have," the general pointed out.

The ouster of Saddam and his gang is just one part of U.S.- coalition objectives, Brooks pointed out, along with the requirement that Iraq also "be free of weapons of mass destruction when this operation is complete."

U.S. and coalition forces have looked for WMDs in Iraq, Brooks noted. But right now, he stressed, the priority is the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Brooks said a more concentrated search for WMDs in Iraq would occur after the Iraqi people are liberated.

"We still believe that the regime still has" WMDs, Brooks remarked, "and, we also believe that they have the will to use them."

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