Wednesday, April 9
Mark Oliver and agencies, The Guardian, April 9, 2003
· Hundreds greet US marines
· Regime 'close to collapse'
· Looting spree in Iraqi capital
Three decades of rule by Saddam Hussein appeared to be collapsing in Baghdad today, as US troops mopping up fading resistance there were cheered by jubilant Iraqis.
US central command said it was premature to say the war was won, as some areas of Baghdad were still under the control of Saddam loyalists. But with looting breaking out unhindered, it was clear his regime was unravelling.
Guardian reporter James Meek, who was with US marines in Baghdad, said resistance to the Americans had "all but collapsed". Downing Street said "command and control in Baghdad appeared to have disintegrated".
TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces and chaotic scenes of government buildings being looted without any sign of Iraqi police or troops keeping order. There were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, the United Nations headquarters and shops near the Olympic Committee's building were ransacked, as were military installations, government buildings and research institutions. Government computers, furniture and even military jeeps were taken from sites around the city.
There were also signs that Iraq's efforts to sustain its public relations campaign were collapsing after government-employed journalists' minders failed to turn up for their work. Uncensored reports by foreign reporters began to come from the capital and Iraqi state television was off the air. [...]